Friday, December 30, 2011

Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

LaPlante's award-winning book is cleverly narrated. The narrator, Elizabeth White, is a murder suspect who happens to have the advanced stages of dementia. She is also a former renowned hand-surgeon.

Almost like a stream-of-consciousness novel, Dr. White has many memories that surface at crucial times. Like a pendulum that swings back and forth, she has good days and bad days.

Hand imagery is present but not omnipresent. Dr. White has a beloved icon, a theotokos, that is notable for its three hands. She collects medieval icons but it is this one in particular that she loves. Amanda, the woman she is accused of murdering, has always coveted the icon.


This a psychological suspense novel at its finest. The story hinges on the killer's motivation. Several people wonder why Dr. White why she would kill her best friend--including Dr. White's son. Amanda's ex-husband, though, staunchly believes Dr. White is innocent. All of Dr. White's memories of Amanda seem pleasant enough.

Her caretaker, Magdalena, has kept careful records and has encouraged Dr. White to keep a journal. A clever police detective, however, noticed that some pages have been carefully sliced outs.

Divided into four parts, this novel is horrifying but also fascinating. Like the best thrillers, the ending comes as a surprise.  Deeply moving and affecting, this is a powerful novel.

Turn of Mind has won the Wellcome Trust Book Prize that celebrates medicine in literature.