Book Review: Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

Turn of Mind
Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m impressed that LaPlante wrote the entire book from Jennifer White’s fractured perspective and this book wasn’t more tedious to read. It’s an interesting concept and fairly expertly executed. The effect most of the time was somewhere between reading the “Benjy” section of The Sound and the Fury and watching Memento. I found that I couldn’t stop reading in the middle of one of the sections because I would lose my place. So I would just sit down and power through to the end of the section. Most of the time, once I got there, I was so engrossed in the story that I just powered through to the end of the next section.

The narrator was not a likable person. Pitiable? Yes. Likable? While I felt sorry for her, my prevailing feeling was a sort of grim satisfaction: she was now reaping what she’d sown. I was skeptical of how many of her thoughts were spent on her family when she’d until very recently done little more than build her career. Until her illness, it didn’t seem as though Jennifer spent much time thinking of her children at all. I was surprised at just how devoted her children were to her after she’d spent their entire lives absent and not at all sure she even loved them. But I suppose LaPlante addresses this by explaining that the nature of Jennifer’s illness opens things up, allows her to poke at uncomfortable places in her memory. It’s as though her penance for living an unexamined life is to be trapped inside the memories of that life.

And the ending. Well, I won’t say anything about the ending except that it was a bit disappointing. Throughout the book, I could see the flame of the firework rising into the sky. I read with anticipation: When it exploded, it was going to be good. But then it got to the top of its arc, shot off a small fountain of purple sparks, and then faded into the night’s sky.

But then, I’m rarely satisfied with endings.

I enjoyed this book. It’s a unique perspective and LaPlante pulls it off well. So don’t let my complaints about the ending and the main character put you off of it.

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