Book Review: The Turner House
Author: Angela Flournoy
Publisher: Mariner Books
Rating: 3.5 stars
Read: August 2020
For over fifty years the Turners have lived on Yarrow Street. Their house has seen thirteen children get grown and gone–and some return; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. But when their powerful mother falls ill, the Turners are called home to decide their house’s fate and to reckon with how their past haunts–and shapes–their future. The Turner House is a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams, and the ways in which our families bring us home.Mariner Books summary
The Turner House by Angela Flournoy tells the story of the Turner family, whose matriarch Viola is declining in health. Furthermore, their family home on Yarrow Street in Detroit has to be dealt with amidst the 2008 housing crisis. There are thirteen Turner children, all grown and with their own families. Flournoy’s ability to tell a great story shines through with each Turner child’s fully developed personality and storyline. As a result, the reader can imagine each sibling individually instead of getting confused about who is who, which I think is no easy feat.
This book is Flournoy’s debut novel and is a solid one. Her writing is strong, and as you read this book, you can definitely see the strength of her prose in specific choice passages and sentences. She can make you stop what you’re reading, ponder the structure of a sentence, and explore the layers of meaning in a paragraph.
We mainly focus on Cha-Cha, the eldest son and self-imposed patriarch, and Lelah, the baby of the family who has been evicted and is dealing with a gambling addiction. I loved the device of intertwining the story of the eldest and the youngest sibling, who are about 20 years apart in age. By telling their stories and exploring their relationship to the Yarrow Street home, Flournoy tells the story of the Turner family as a whole. Cha-Cha is haunted by a spirit that forces him to come to terms with other personal issues, including his role within his family. This book may seem to be about whether the spirit is “real” or not, but I interpreted it more as a vehicle to tell this family’s story, its past, present, and future.
Ghosts are real because they reveal and reflect our personal fears, longings, memories, and hopes. The Turner House is not a story about a haunted house, which I think was marketing’s focus when it first came out. That is misleading. This book is more of a generational family story, with one of the main characters coming to terms with their relationships through the presence of a spirit. This is a story about family and the meaning of home, and I enjoyed it.
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