Book of the Month: April 2013


Turn of Mind by Alice LaPlante

There are those books that, for a period of time, everyone seems to be talking about and every book club seems to have on their roster. Many of these, of course, deserve the attention and praise. But then there are other books, sometimes the most remarkable, accomplished and original to be published in a given year, that quietly slip below the radar. Alice LaPlante’s debut novel Turn of Mind, which came out last year, is just such a book. Discovered by Julie when she moderated a panel on book clubs at last month’s Tucson Festival of Books, Turn of Mind instantly struck her and the rest of the audience members as an essential read for anyone interested in a story that is at once suspenseful, poetic, mysterious, intellectually provocative and emotionally gripping.

To call Turn of Mind a thriller worthy of Hitchcock (which it is) is to miss the fact that at its core it is a brilliantly sensitive portrait of a mind in the process of deterioration. The novel is told from the point of view of Dr. Jennifer White, a renowned orthopedic surgeon whose mind is slowly succumbing to dementia and who may or may not have murdered her best friend and neighbor (she either can’t or won’t remember). That Alice LaPlante’s interest in the subject came from her experience of being a caregiver to a mother with Alzheimer’s disease is evident in the realism and empathy with which she captures the internal experience of a character literally losing her mind yet holding on, all the more tightly and all the more poignantly for the reader, to her humanity.

If you are one of the people who missed Turn of Mind when it debuted last year, we are thrilled to bring it to your attention. This is truly a not-to-be-missed book, ideal for book clubs or individual readers, that you will thank us for sharing with you!


New York Times bestseller, Turn of Mind is a literary thriller about a retired orthopedic surgeon suffering from dementia and accused of killing her best friend. With unmatched patience and a pulsating intensity, Alice LaPlante’s debut novel brings us deep into a brilliant woman’s deteriorating mind, where the impossibility of recognizing reality can be both a blessing and a curse.

When the book opens, Dr. Jennifer White’s best friend, Amanda, has been killed, and four fingers surgically removed from her hand. Dr. White is the prime suspect and she herself doesn’t know whether she did it. Told in White’s own voice, fractured and eloquent, a picture emerges of the surprisingly intimate, complex alliance between these life-long friends — two proud, forceful women who were at times each other’s most formidable adversaries. As the investigation into the murder deepens and White’s relationships with her live-in caretaker and two grown children intensify, a chilling question lingers: is White’s shattered memory preventing her from revealing the truth or helping her hide it?

A startling portrait of a disintegrating mind clinging to reality through anger, frustration, shame, and unspeakable loss, Turn of Mind examines the deception and frailty of memory and how it defines our very existence.


Alice LaPlante is an award-winning fiction writer and university creative writing instructor. She was a Wallace Stegner Fellow and a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and teaches creative writing at both Stanford and San Francisco State University. The author of five books (and counting), Alice includes among her publications a writing textbook, Method and Madness: The Making of a Story, published by W.W. Norton in 2009; Playing For Profit: How Digital Entertainment is Making Big Business Out of Child’s Play (Wiley, 2000); and Passion to Profits: Business for Non-Business Majors (The Planning Shop, 2008).

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