The Turner House

The childhood summers she spent with her grandparents, and stories of their many children, inspired Angela Flournoy's first novel, The Turner House.

Francis and Viola Turner raised 13 children in their house on Yarrow Street. Viola has remained in the changing, crumbling Detroit neighborhood long after Francis died and the family dispersed, but age and illness have finally forced her out, too, into the home of her eldest son, Charles ("Cha-Cha"). Knowing that Viola is unlikely to live on her own again, Cha-Cha calls his siblings together to discuss their mother's house. It's worth far less than its mortgage; even collectively they can't afford to pay it off, but they can't agree on how--or whether--to keep it.

This debate is especially unsettling for Lelah, the youngest Turner, who has secretly moved back into the house after being evicted from her apartment and suspended from her job. For his part, Cha-Cha is juggling personal problems alongside the family ones. On leave from his job as a truck driver after an accident, Cha-Cha has been sent to counseling, but he's finding his therapist more confusing than helpful.

Flournoy could have structured The Turner House as a sprawling multi-generational saga or a reflection on urban decay; instead, she opts for a more intimate scale. She concentrates on selected members of the large cast of characters. At times the plot threads become difficult to wrangle, but the conversations between the Turner siblings ring true, and so do the family's tension and affection. One hopes Flournoy has more stories to tell about them. --Florinda Pendley Vasquez, blogger at The 3 R's: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

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