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Authors: Alice LaPlante

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Turn of Mind

PRAISE FOR ALICE L
A
PLANTE AND
TURN OF MIND

‘Wonderful. This harrowing exploration of the slow disintegration of the mind is deeply touching and utterly heartbreaking, while also being a compelling page-turner. I loved it.'
S. J. WATSON

‘Really terrific—ambitious, clever and human.'
NICCI FRENCH

‘An electrifying book, impossible to put down…a tour de force that can't be a first novel—and yet it is. I'll read whatever LaPlante writes next, and the sooner the better.'
ANN PACKER

‘[A] startling portrait of a fiercely intelligent woman struggling mightily to hold on to her sense of self…fascinating on so many levels, from its poignant and inventive depiction of a harrowing illness to its knowing portrayal of the dark complexities of friendship and marriage.'
Booklist

‘LaPlante's characters are completely convincing, the plotting masterful.'
DONNA LEON

‘Alice LaPlante's brilliantly original novel took me not simply into the life of a woman falling apart, but directly into her crumbling brain as she tries desperately to keep her sense of her own identity from slipping away. She held me there for three hundred riveting pages—and for weeks after i'd turned the last one.'
JOYCE MAYNARD

‘A haunting story masterfully told.'
Kirkus

Alice LaPlante is an award-winning writer who teaches at San Francisco State University and Stanford University, where she received a Wallace Stegner Fellowship and held a Jones Lectureship. Raised in Chicago, she now lives with her family in Northern California.
Turn of Mind
is her first novel.

ALICE L
A
PLANTE

TURN

of

MIND

TEXT PUBLISHING MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA

textpublishing.com.au

The Text Publishing Company
Swann House
22 William Street
Melbourne Victoria 3000
Australia

Copyright © Alice LaPlante 2011

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright above, no part of this publication shall be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

First published in 2011 by The Text Publishing Company

Cover design by Susan Miller

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

Author: LaPlante, Alice.

Title:     Turn of mind / Alice LaPlante.

ISBN:    9781921758423 (pbk.)

Dewey Number: A823.4

Primary print ISBN: 9781921758423
Ebook ISBN: 9781921834608

For Alice Gervase O'Neill LaPlante

TURN
of
MIND

CONTENTS

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

ONE

Something has happened. You can always tell. You come to and find wreckage: a smashed lamp, a devastated human face that shivers on the verge of being recognizable. Occasionally someone in uniform: a paramedic, a nurse. A hand extended with a pill. Or poised to insert a needle.

This time, I am in a room, sitting on a cold metal folding chair. The room is not familiar, but I am used to that. I look for clues. An office-like setting, long and crowded with desks and computers, messy with papers. No windows.

I can barely make out the pale green of the walls, so many posters, clippings, and bulletins tacked up. Fluorescent lighting casting a pall. Men and women talking; to one another, not to me. Some wearing baggy suits, some in jeans. And more uniforms. My guess is that a smile would be inappropriate. Fear might not be.

I can still read, I'm not that far gone, not yet. No books anymore, but newspaper articles. Magazine pieces, if they're short enough. I have a system. I take a sheet of lined paper. I write down notes, just like in medical school.

When I get confused, I read my notes. I refer back to them. I can take two hours to get through a single
Tribune
article, half a day to get through
The New York Times.
Now, as I sit at the table, I pick up a paper someone discarded, a pencil. I write in the margins as I read.
These are
Band-Aid solutions. The violent flare-ups continue. They have reaped what they
sowed and should repent.

Afterward, I look at these notes but am left with nothing but a sense of unease, of uncontrol. A heavy man in blue is hovering, his hand inches away from my upper arm. Ready to grab. Restrain.

Do you understand the rights I have just read to you? With these rights in mind,
do you wish to speak to me?

I want to go home. I want to go home. Am I in Philadelphia. There was the house on Walnut Lane. We played kickball in the streets.

No, this is Chicago. Ward Forty-three, Precinct Twenty-one. We have called your
son and daughter. You can decide at any time from this moment on to terminate
the interview and exercise these rights.

I wish to terminate. Yes.

A large sign is taped to the kitchen wall. The words, written in thick black marker in a tremulous hand, slope off the poster board:
My name is Dr. Jennifer
White. I am sixty-four years old. I have dementia. My son, Mark, is twenty-nine.
My daughter, Fiona, twenty-four. A caregiver, Magdalena, lives with me.

It is all clear. So who are all these other people in my house? People, strangers, everywhere. A blond woman I don't recognize in my kitchen drinking tea. A glimpse of movement from the den. Then I turn the corner into the living room and find yet another face. I ask, So who are you? Who are all the others? Do you know
her?
I point to the kitchen, and they laugh.

I
am
her, they say. I was there, now I'm here. I am the only one in the house other than you. They ask if I want tea. They ask if I want to go for a walk. Am I a baby? I say. I am tired of the questions.
You know me,
don't you? Don't you remember? Magdalena. Your friend.

The notebook is a way of communicating with myself, and with others. Of filling in the blank periods. When all is in a fog, when someone refers to an event or conversation that I can't recall, I leaf through the pages. Sometimes it comforts me to read what's there. Sometimes not. It is my Bible of consciousness. It lives on the kitchen table: large and square, with an embossed leather cover and heavy creamy paper. Each entry has a date on it. A nice lady sits me down in front of it.

She writes,
January 20, 2009. Jennifer's notes.
She hands the pen to me. She says,
Write what happened today. Write about your childhood. Write whatever
you remember.

I remember my first wrist arthrodesis. The pressure of scalpel against skin, the slight give when it finally sliced through. The resilience of muscle. My surgical scissors scraping bone. And afterward, peeling off bloody gloves finger by finger.

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