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Alzheimer’s Mystery Novel Takes Wellcome Prize

Turn of Mind (Atlantic Monthly Press, 320pgs), the debut mystery novel by Alice LaPlante was announced today as the winner of the U.K. based Wellcome Trust Book Prize, an award for medical literature. The thriller is told through the perspective of Dr. Jennifer White, a retired surgeon battling the ravages of Alzheimer’s disease. When her best friend Amanda is found dead with one hand mutilated with surgical precision, Dr. White becomes the main suspect, though she cannot remember having played any part in the crime. As the story unfolds, details about the long lasting, yet turbulent, friendship between the two women are revealed, leaving Dr. White to question weather her absence of memory is hiding her guilt or protecting her from harm.

In an AP article, LaPlante, who is a creative writing professor at Stanford University and San Francisco State University, shares that the inspiration for the novel was born out of her mother’s own struggle with the “brutal disease”.

Turn of Mind, which has been well received by critics, also left a lasting impression with the judging panel for Wellcome Trust Book Prize. The judges cited the novel’s “superbly evocative first-person narrative brings the reality of Alzheimer’s to life” in a statement to the press. Panel chair Vivienne Parry also stated that the story “emphatically confirms the ability of literature to tell us more about the heart and soul of an illness than any textbook.”

According to the Wellcome website, the Book Prize, now three years old, “aims to stimulate interest, excitement and debate about medicine and literature, reaching audiences not normally engaged with medical science.”

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