Friday, July 1, 2011

Turning On to "Turn of Mind," LaPlante's Great New Novel. She's Appearing at Boswell on Wednesday, July 13, 7 pm.

Happy July to everyone. The new Indie Next List is out, and I'm very excited that we are hosting the #1 pick from independent booksellers around the county, Alice LaPlante's novel, Turn of Mind, on Wednesday, July 13.

It's the story of a retired surgeon, Jennifer White, who lives in Chicago with her caretaker.  Her husband has passed away.  She has two kids, and both relationships are rather difficult. Her best friend and mentor lived on the next block.  I say "lived" because she's now dead.  Murdered.

So here's the hook. The story is entirely from the perspective of Jennifer White's and she is living with Alzheimer's disease.  Aside from the dialogue (which is all in italics), everything is what's going on in her head.  She has good days and bad, so sometimes she recognizes her kids and sometimes she doesn't.  And the disease progresses--early on, she's coherent enough so that she can put the caretaker in place and assign guardianship to one of her kids.

I've been talking it up to folks who liked Room, which I am finally, finally reading for our in-store lit group discussion on July 4, 11 am.  It just goes to show that a bookseller doesn't have to read every book to know what you should read, and everyone who read Donoghue's novel on my suggestion can vouch for that. And of course we sold a lot of Room by comparing it to The Curious History of the Dog in the Night Time

This is a bit different, as this is an adult we're talking about. The other likely comparison is Lisa Genova's Still Alice, another book we sold very well in 2009 and 2010.  There are some differences to the two books--I would say that Genova's is more plot-driven and LaPlante's is more stylized.  It's also a bit like a puzzle, and I don't mean that in the mystery sense, as I think the story works better as a novel than a thriller.  I mean "puzzle" in the sense that you need to put together all the stray details of White's story and you get this fully realized life, which is just so well done.

I was a little late on reading Turn of Mind, as I always seem to be.  I first met LaPlante at the booksellers' Winter Institue, where she was one of the Grove Atlantic featured authors. After a wonderful conversation with the author, the publisher, and several booksellers who read Turn of Mind, the novel went to the top of my list. 

Then a whole bunch of other books got in the way, and I wound up taking the book to the big Book Expo America convention.  Now I always take a few books to the show, but there are always more there, and there's no time to read, and you start kicking yourself.  I was so absorbed in Turn of Mind, however, that I found myself reading it everywhere--in buses and subways, waiting for buses, while walking on crowded sidewalks, and even just slipping away from the show to get in another ten pages.

So here's the scoop, this is a book you're going to want to read, and afterwards, you're going to have questions and who better to ask them of than Alice LaPlante herself.  She'll be at Boswell on Wednesday, July 13, at 7 pm. LaPlante teaches writing at Stanford and San Francisco State.  She grew up in Chicago, where the story is set.

There are a lot of folks that share my enthusiasm for Turn of Mind.

Kirkus gave Turn of Mind a starred review.  They said, "Despite the near stream-of-consciousness, Faulknerian Sound and Fury presentation, the narrative is easily followed to the resolution of the mystery and White’s ultimate melancholy and inevitable end."  Faulkner! Read the rest of the review here.

Publisher's Weekly also starred their review. "Mystery fans should be prepared for a subtle literary novel in which the unfolding of Jennifer's condition and of her past matters far more than the whodunit." More here.

Here's author Beth Kephart on her blog. "Turn of Mind will have readers emphatically talking, bloggers opining, book club members up late at night. It's a chilling story. Dementia is chilling. LaPlante brings its fog and smear to vivid, shivering life." She also compared the book to Carole Maso's AvaRead more on Beth Kephart Books.

While Rob Bunner in Entertainment Weekly wasn't crazy about the thriller angle, but enjoyed the writing enough to give Turn of Mind a B+.  He mentions a particularly great passage when Dr. White is watching someone to see how many times they punch their phone, to see if he is calling a number or 911.  Read the review here.

And of course the IndieBound quote, which is from Susan Wasson of Albuquerque's Bookworks. "This is a remarkable, heart-wrenching, and utterly compelling debut novel." More here

Quite the collection of recs, and that's without all the bookseller enthusiasm that is sometimes hard to track down.  Should I dig through every bookstore's staff rec pages? Yes, I should.  I'll let you know how that goes.

1 comment:

Italia said...

The novel is told from the first-person point of view, like Lisa Genova's brilliant novel about a female researcher suffering from early onset Alzheimer's, Still Alice. That novel was one of my favorites in recent years, and while this book did not move me as much, the added angle of the murder mystery is expertly woven within the storyline of a character who may have committed a horrible crime, but doesn't remember. Jennifer is not a warm woman; she spent most of her life building a career. She had two grown children: Mark, a son who has persistent money problems, and Fiona, a daughter who has spent the last twenty years looking for herself. Her husband James is dead. Jennifer and Amanda had a complicated relationship. As the story unravels, we see that Amanda had a cruel streak, and Jennifer remembers things that Amanda did to purposefully hurt her. Is is possible that she really did kill Amanda and expertly sever her finger? In order to keep things straight, Jennifer has been writing in a journal things that happen each day.