Monday, October 31, 2011
Turn of Mind
Atlantic Monthly Press, 2011
Jennifer White is a brilliant retired surgeon who has dementia. Every day is a struggle for her to remember the simplest of things: her adult children’s names, that she needs to wear clothes when she goes outside, or even that her best friend and neighbor was murdered. In order to help remember the details of her life, she keeps a notebook where family members and her caregiver keep a record of her daily activities, and also where Dr. White can summarize events for future reference. As we read Dr. White’s journal, however, we come to believe that she may have been involved in the death of her best friend because Dr. White starts to implicate herself by revealing past events that may have provided a motive for the murder. In fact, the police are also very interested in Dr. White as a person of interest, despite the fact (or perhaps because of it) that Dr. White keeps forgetting that her friend is dead and speaks of past conflicts between the two as though they just occurred – conflicts that could prove very damaging to Dr. White and her family. As the doctor loses herself more and more to the disease, we can start to see evidence that the others around her don’t always have her best interests at heart.
This intriguing premise is sure to please readers who enjoy literary mysteries as well as those who are interested in the effects a catastrophic illness can have on a proudly independent medical professional. Dr. White (never Jenny or Jen) was not a warm person to her patients or very maternal to her children. She didn’t seem worried about her husband’s infidelities, nor was she very friendly with coworkers. She was dedicated to medicine and her work, however, and this defined her life so much that she had trouble separating herself from it upon retirement. Dr. White’s distant yet dedicated personality is what makes the slow unraveling of her life all the more remarkable – especially when the reader is confronted with her inexplicable actions at the end of the novel.
This is definitely a book worthy of more contemplation.
This is the author’s first novel.
Other novels you may enjoy:
Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011)
Without her husband's knowledge, Christine, whose memory is damaged by a long-ago accident, is treated by a neurologist who helps her to remember her former self through journal entries until inconsistencies begin to emerge, raising disturbing questions.
The Last Days of Ptolemy Grey by Walter Mosley (2010)
Ptolemy Grey is a 91-year-old man, suffering from dementia and living as a recluse in his Los Angeles apartment. Then Robyn Small, a 17-year-old family friend, appears and helps clean up his apartment and straighten out his life. A reinvigorated Ptolemy volunteers for an experimental medical program that restores his mind, and he uses his last days--shortened now by the medical experiment--to delve into the mystery of the recent drive-by shooting death of his great-nephew,
The Bird House by Kelly Simmons (2011)
Eight-year-old Ellie finds herself in dark territory when her dementia-ridden grandmother begins using her as a sounding board for the family's most forbidden secrets.