Summary and book reviews of The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

The Turner House

by Angela Flournoy

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
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  • First Published:
    Apr 2015, 352 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2016, 352 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Rebecca Foster

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Book Summary

A powerful, timely debut, 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. 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.

Already 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.

Trouble in the Big Room

The eldest six of Francis and Viola Turner's thirteen children claimed that the big room of the house on Yarrow Street was haunted for at least one night. A ghost?— a haint, if you will?—?tried to pull Cha-Cha out of the big room's second-story window.

The big room was not, in actuality, very big. Could hardly be considered a room. For some other family it might have made a decent storage closet, or a mother's cramped sewing room. For the Turners it became the only single-occupancy bedroom in their overcrowded house. A rare and coveted space.

In the summer of 1958, Cha-Cha, the eldest child at fourteen years, was in the throes of a gangly-legged, croaky-voiced adolescence. Smelling himself, Viola called it. Tired of sharing a bed with younger brothers who peed and kicked and drooled and blanket-hogged, Cha-Cha woke up one evening, untangled himself from his brothers' errant limbs, and stumbled into the whatnot closet across the hall....

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Turner House opens in spring 2008, a time characterized by simultaneous despair and hope for Detroit's African-American community. On the one hand, the city was in the throes of financial crisis – unemployment was high and property prices had crashed to all-time lows. The novel uses African-American dialect and imagery to good effect. For instance, Viola says, "You know Cha-Cha's gone do what he wanna do. Ain't no democracy in this family." Her speech sounds authentic but doesn't tip over into the realms of caricature. The Detroit city motto would make a good one for the Turners, too. They have been through so much – addictions, losses, betrayals – but still, "We hope for better things."   (Reviewed by Rebecca Foster).

Full Review (783 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Readers may be reminded of Ayana Mathis's The Twelve Tribes of Hattie, but Flournoy puts her own distinctive stamp on this absorbing narrative.

Booklist

Starred Review. Encompassing a multitude of themes, including aging and parenthood, this is a compelling read that is funny and moving in equal measure.

Kirkus Reviews

Flournoy's writing is precise and sharp, and despite several loose ends - Troy doesn't experience significant emotional change by the book's end, and thehouse's fate remains unclear - the novel draws readers to theTurner family almost magnetically. A talent to watch.

Author Blurb Ayana Mathis, bestselling author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
Utterly moving and tough as nails, The Turner House is a love story as immense as the family it describes, and as complicated as the city that made them. A clear-sighted ode to the bonds that make and break us, to resilience across generations, to shared joys and solitary struggles, Flournoy's debut is as fresh and bold as they come. Commanding and un-putdownable

Author Blurb T.C. Boyle, bestselling author of San Miguel, The Women, and many others.
An expansive and ambitious novel that descends through the generations of one family’s history to achieve real poignancy and power.

Author Blurb Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow and others.
The Turner House is a marvelous novel introducing a family of irresistible characters.  Angela Flournoy is a magician--here is a story that is charming and funny while being whip-smart and profound. Laced through are the hard facts of history and the mysterious workings of the human heart. The magic begins with the extraordinary first chapter and lasts to the very last page. This is a thrilling debut from a writer to watch.

Author Blurb Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban, King of Cuba, and others.
Angela Flournoy’s extraordinary debut novel, The Turner House, is as compelling, unforgettable, and beautifully told a story as I’ve read in ages. The real and the supernatural, the hardships and hard won triumphs of the tightly knit, at times warring Turner clan will pull you close to this family’s generous, dignified heart. While each of the thirteen siblings (and their parents) could carry a book on his or her own, here they remain indelibly linked by the complicated bonds of history and belonging—and by the promises of their heartbreak city, Detroit.

Reader Reviews

Carol Hale

Pleasant book is an autobiography of a family and a city
The author did a fantastic job of describing the dynamics in large families (there are 8 children in mine), and the family and old-time, southern superstitions that take on life and get passed down from generation to generation. Cha Cha isn't the ...   Read More

Mla08080

Family Dynamics
"The eldest six of Francis and Viola Turner’s thirteen children claimed that the big room of the house on Yarrow Street was haunted for at least one night. A ghost—a haint, if you will—tried to pull Cha-Cha out of the big room’s second-story ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Detroit's Property Crash and the Road to Recovery

In 2013, the city of Detroit declared bankruptcy. The decline of the automotive industry, the growth of the suburbs, unemployment, poverty, and high crime rate are all cited as factors in the city's decline. From a peak population of 1.85 million in 1950, the city shrank to around 700,000; it steadily leaked people to the Michigan suburbs or other parts of the country, especially after the 1967 riots. That amounts to a 60% drop in population. In 2013 the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics named Detroit's as the highest unemployment rate (23.1%) among the country's 50 largest cities.

Abandoned House in Delray, Detroit Over the period from 2007 to 2013, Detroit's property market crashed. One in five houses lay empty. Why? In many cases, residents found ...

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