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The Turner House

turner houseThe Turner House is a first novel, an amazing and beautiful book full of both details and ideas.  While we may not have experienced the specifics of the lives of the 13 Turner children and their parents, lives detailed with clarity in the novel, we understand all through Flournoy’s exceptional telling of their story.  Showing sensitivity and understanding, Flournoy writes characters who experience a range of situations – growing up in a large family in Detroit; working (as housecleaners, factory workers, truck drivers, police officers, medical professionals); migration to the north; poverty; unemployment;, homelessness; addiction to alcohol, drugs and gambling; and, primarily, emblematic of all that the family experiences, trying to save the family home that is crumbling in a decaying neighborhood.

One of the central themes is a haint, a ghost that appears to the eldest child, Cha-Cha, and to others in the family.  Another theme is the city of Detroit, history and present day, described accurately and with compassion.  To quote from The New York Times Sunday Book Review, “That Flournoy’s main characters are black is central to this book, and yet her treatment of that essential fact is never essentializing.”

Most of us will know the joys and the distress that the Turners find in life, through circumstance, and also through family and friends.  To quote from the final pages of the book, the thoughts of Viola, mother of the 13: “The love pivoted between hard and unwieldy and tender and sincere….She would be gracious.  She would talk about strength and pride.  She would tell a little joke.  They would all feel loved.”

 

The Turner House was a Finalist for the 2015 National Book Award in Fiction.  

 

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