As excited as I am about recently joining NetGalley and gaining access to pre-release books (and believe me, I'm as tickled as a pickle in a party hat), I want to remain faithful to one of my original goals in starting this site: to bring attention to books published prior to this moment in history that perhaps didn't make it onto your radar when first released. There are plenty of great books in the stacks of your local library just hanging around waiting for love. You can pick them up this very day, and since they're no longer in the “New” category, you can have them for four weeks instead of two. What a bargain, right?!
So for your reading pleasure, here's a title you can likely trot right out and find today. Alice LaPlante's debut novel from 2011 is narrated by Dr. Jennifer White, a retired orthopedic surgeon afflicted with Alzheimer's. Her mind is already fragmented, her memory and perception unreliable, but we find out through her conversations with her caretaker and children that her best friend Amanda has been murdered, and the police believe Jennifer knows something about it.
Does she? Well, that depends on when you ask. Most of the time, Jennifer is too addled to contribute anything coherent to the investigation. Her lawyer advises her not to talk to the police, as they may consider her a suspect. Even though the narration is first-person and we're inside Jennifer's head, her inner monologue is garbled enough to obscure the truth. LaPlante keeps the tension high and the central mystery pleasingly convoluted until the very end.
In a way, this is two books in one. First, it's a mystery—we're eager to find out what happened to Amanda, and whether Jennifer could possibly have murdered her friend and then forgotten all about it. But it's also an unsettling expedition into a failing mind, providing a front-row seat for Jennifer's decline from an intelligent, capable surgeon to someone who doesn't remember to take off her nightgown before showering. LaPlante's portrayal of Jennifer is sensitive and insightful, making her bizarre behavior almost comprehensible, but it's still hard to read about a disease laying waste to a once-keen mind. Those who have known friends or relatives with Alzheimer's may find this book rubs a raw spot.
Despite the heaviness, this book is an absorbing read with a fascinating narrator, and I think it's a good candidate for your summer reading list. Of course if this one isn't your speed, consider joining us for Summer of Sci-Fi, beginning June 1st!