A powerful, timelydebut, The Turner House marks a major new contribution to the story of the American family.
The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Read more...
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A powerful, timelydebut, The Turner Housemarks a major new contribution to the story of the American family.
The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit s East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts and shapes their family s future.
Praised by Ayana Mathis as utterly moving and un-putdownable, The Turner House brings us a colorful, complicated brood full of love and pride, sacrifice and unlikely inheritances. It s a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams and futures, and the ways in which our families bring us home.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-01-05
- Reviewer: Staff
Flounoy’s debut is a lively, thoroughly engaging family saga with a cast of fully realized characters. Francis and Viola Turner and their 13 children have lived in a house on Detroit’s East Side for more than 50 years. In its prime, Yarrow Street was a comfortable haven for black working-class homeowners. In 2008, after Detroit’s long economic depression, Francis has died and Viola is about to lose the house, the value of which has declined to less than the owed mortgage payments, and the siblings are faced with a difficult decision about the house’s fate. Flournoy focuses on three of the Turner siblings—Cha-Cha, the eldest son, who drove an 18-wheeler carrying Chryslers before an accident took him off the road; Troy, the youngest son, a policeman with an ambitious, illegal plan; and Lelah, the unstable youngest daughter, who has a gambling addiction. In addition to the pressing financial issue regarding their family home, the plot touches on the moral, emotional, marital, and psychological problems that affect the siblings. Flournoy evokes the intricacies of domestic situations and sibling relationships, depicting how each of the Turners’ lives has been shaped by the social history of their generation. She handles time and place with a veteran’s ease as the narrative swings between decades, at times leaping back to the 1940s. A family secret, which involves a “haint” (or ghost) who became Francis’s nemesis—perhaps real, perhaps just a superstition—appears many years later to haunt Cha-Cha. Readers may be reminded of Ayana Mathis’s The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, but Flournoy puts her own distinctive stamp on this absorbing narrative. (Apr.)
One house, 13 siblings
Tolstoy is famous for writing, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” What he doesn’t mention is that each member of the family can be happy and unhappy in their own individual ways. That’s where Angela Flournoy picks up in The Turner House, the story of a big African-American family struggling with the decision of what to do with their family home.
In a Detroit struck by poverty and violence live the Turners, a sprawling family of 13 children. The oldest and the youngest practically belong to different generations, different Detroits and different parents. Their mistakes and their lost hopes are the bonds that connect them to each other.
Flournoy doesn’t just detail the journey the family goes on together; she also lets us in on the problems each individual struggles with alone. Family is their support system, but that doesn’t mean they share everything. Sometimes family members only serve to make each Turner feel more alone with their personal weaknesses.
What makes The Turner House profound is its reality, its observation of a family so diverse and well-drawn that they seem real. Many books center on romantic love or parental love, but we rarely find such an honest portrait of what it means to be a sibling—defined by your differences as much as your similarities—as the one Flournoy gives us. The Turners are continually rebuilding their lives, re-establishing connections that get tangled, torn and broken. Their story is beautiful in the way family is beautiful: full of heartbreak and broken dreams, but ultimately connection and community, understanding and love.