Reviews of The Turnout by Megan Abbott

The Turnout

by Megan Abbott

The Turnout by Megan Abbott X
The Turnout by Megan Abbott
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    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Aug 2021, 352 pages

    Paperback:
    May 2022, 368 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Maria Katsulos
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About this Book

Book Summary

Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott's revelatory and mesmerizing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio.

With their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, Dara and Marie Durant have been dancers since they can remember. Growing up, they were homeschooled and trained by their glamorous mother, founder of the Durant School of Dance. After their parents' death in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago, the sisters began running the school together, along with Charlie, Dara's husband and once their mother's prized student.

Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, sidelined from dancing after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around one another, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school's annual performance of The Nutcracker—a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration—an interloper arrives and threatens the sisters' delicate balance.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.

Excerpt
The Turnout

They were dancers. Their whole lives, nearly. They were dancers who taught dance and taught it well, as their mother had.

"Every girl wants to be a ballerina ..."

That's what their brochure said, their posters, their website, the sentence scrolling across the screen in stately cursive.

The Durant School of Dance, est. 1986 by their mother, a former soloist with the Alberta Ballet, took up the top two floors of a squat, rusty brick office building downtown. It had become theirs after their parents died on a black-ice night more than a dozen years ago, their car caroming across the highway median. When an enterprising local reporter learned it had been their twentieth wedding anniversary, he wrote a story about them, noting their hands were interlocked even in death.

Had one of them reached out to the other in those final moments, the reporter wondered to readers, or had they been holding hands all along?

All these years later, the story of their parents' end, passed down ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. In The Turnout, sisters Dara and Marie were home-schooled and raised in the ballet studio run by their mother. In what ways did the sisters have an atypical upbringing? How did their mother, and the rigorous structure of ballet training, influence them? How did Dara and Marie individually internalize this influence, and how do their differences manifest in adulthood? Are they so different after all?
  2. Dara, Marie, and Charlie, Dara's husband, are a tightly enmeshed trio. Discuss both the personal and professional dynamics among them. What accounts for their closeness? In what way do their bonds transcend traditional sibling and sibling-in-law relationships?
  3. Resistance to change is a big theme in this novel. Why do you think Dara, Marie, ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

The Turnout showcases how the most beautiful things can hide the darkest ones within the shadows, and how, sometimes, we must go through horrific ordeals to reach the light. As in Give Me Your Hand, Abbott's 2018 novel about the grueling world of scientific research through the eyes of two high-school friends forever bound by a shocking secret, every line of prose in The Turnout sings with the author's unique, poetic voice. One of my favorite lines is her description of the young male ballet dancers in the Durant School — she paints a picture of "…their chests like ship prows yet waists so dainty, like prim bows." The would-be rhyme of "prows" and "bows" is a microcosmic example highlighting Abbott's character, plot and world building skill: Whatever you expect her to write will give out on you like a snapping pointe shoe...continued

Full Review Members Only (564 words).

(Reviewed by Maria Katsulos).

Media Reviews

The Washington Post
Abbott is a legend for good reason. No one combines the style of classic noir with the psyches of sophisticated men and women who are willing to do anything—anything—to succeed better than Abbott. Her latest is a dizzyingly fascinating story of a family-owned dance studio and the weight of unrequited ambition. An instant classic.

LitHub
The Turnout unfolds like a dark fairy tale, unpacking the rigid demands of femininity. Abbott fans and suspense lovers alike won't be disappointed with this exploration of human frailty and twisted love.

New York Times
[D]ark and juicy and tinged with horror...[Abbott's] prose is often incantatory, her dialogue lightly stylized. Frequently her tone has a strong flavor, pungent and fermented...Like a ballet, The Turnout revels in its own bigness, its drama, its relish for cataclysmic passion and its appetite for the grotesque.

Real Simple
This is a deliciously creepy thriller about competition and family ties.

Refinery29
There's no one better than Abbott at exploring issues of femininity and power struggles, and getting at the visceral heart of both. Fans of Black Swan and The Red Shoes are bound to be obsessed.

The Boston Globe
Abbott casts her disquieting fictional magic as the obsessive dynamics of a self-contained family—sisters Dara and Marie, and Dara's husband, Charlie—running a small-town, run-down ballet school, collide with the presence of a sinister newcomer.

Booklist (starred review)
Abbott brilliantly explores the psychosexual undercurrents throbbing throughout this haunting novel, from the dancers' pointe shoes…through even the Nutcracker itself.

Library Journal (starred review)
Abbott has a top-notch ability to reveal the dark undercurrents of women's relationships and sexuality. Her taut, unsettling writing creates tension through the slightest actions and phrases, and keeps the pages turning. This is clever, chilling psychological suspense at its best.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[G]ut-punching...This look at the darker side of the dance world demonstrates why Abbott has few peers at crafting moving stories of secrets and broken lives.

Kirkus Reviews
The physicality in Abbott's prose gives the mounting tension a heartbeat...Though this story lacks some of the unquenchable energy that is Abbott's trademark, the mesmerizing prose will keep you turning the pages. Abbott is a master of thinly veiled secrets often kept by women who rage underneath their delicate exteriors.

Author Blurb Laura Lippman, author of Lady in the Lake
All one needs to know about a Megan Abbott book is that it's a Megan Abbott book — dreamy, sexy, a deep dive into a subculture that has been exhaustively researched. The Turnout is all those things and more, taking you so far into the world of a small ballet school that you feel the characters' aches and pains in your joints, your feet, and, most dangerous of all, your heart.

Author Blurb Tana French, author of The Searcher
There's no one who captures the atmosphere of a tight-knit hothouse world, in all its feverish beauty and brutality, quite like Megan Abbott.

Reader Reviews

Janay Macon

The Turnout
I would say this book was really amazing, seductive, mysterious and thrilling at the same time.
DEONNA L GALBRAITH

very disappointed
I don't know any other way to say it, but I didn't like the book at all. I had to make myself finish it for my bookclub. I wasn't connected to the characters at all. Totally unbelievable. I could not relate at all.
Gabi

“The Turnout” a Turn Off
I had such high expectations for “The Turnout.” I even pre-ordered it based on the early reviews by the critics and because I was intrigued by the book having ballet as the backdrop. After all, “Every girl wants to be a ballerina” as it says in the ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

The Nutcracker

A performance of The Nutcracker in Minsk, Belarus Megan Abbott's The Turnout, a novel about two twin sisters who are dancers, begins at the start of The Nutcracker season. Apart from being a universally beloved show with deep roots in American ballet, The Nutcracker is also the Durant School of Dance's main moneymaker: "Every year, their fall enrollment increased twenty percent because of all these girls wanting to be Clara. Soon after, their winter enrollment increased another ten percent from girls in the audience who fell in love with the tutus and magic."

This economic reliance on the famous ballet rings true for real-life dance studios, too; Natalie Rouland writes in a blog post for the Wilson Center in Washington DC that The Nutcracker "continues to provide essential ticket-...

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