The Turner House (Paperback)
Mariner Books, 9780544705166, 352pp.
Publication Date: March 1, 2016
May 2015 Indie Next List
— Kim Fox (M), Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI
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A New York Times Notable Book
Named a Best Book of the Year by
“A page-turner. Richly wrought prose and intimate, vivid dialogue. A–.” — Entertainment Weekly
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.
“An epic that feels deeply personal . . . Flournoy’s finely tuned empathy infuses her characters with a radiant humanity.” — O, The Oprah Magazine
“In this assured and memorable novel, [Flournoy] provides the feeling of knowing a family from the inside out, as we would wish to know our own.” — New York Times Book Review
About the Author
ANGELA FLOURNOY is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the University of Southern California. Her fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, and she has written for the New Republic, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa and Trinity Washington University. She was raised by a mother from Los Angeles and a father from Detroit.
Praise For The Turner House…
Nominated for the NAACP Image Awards, "Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author"
Short-listed for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction
Nominated for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Awards, Fiction
One of the National Book Foundation’s "5 Under 35"
Short-listed for the 2015 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Finalist for the 2016 New York Public Library Young Lions Award
Winner of the 2016 Paterson Fiction Prize
Finalist for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award
Short-listed for the Ernest Gaines Award
Short-listed for The Morning News 2016 Tournament of Books
Long-listed for the NBCC John Leonard Prize for A Debut Novel
Long-listed for the 2016 Chautauqua Prize
Nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award 2017
An Amazon Top 100 Editors' Pick of the Year
A New York Times Notable Book of 2015
A New York Times Editors' Choice
New York Times Paperback Row
Short-listed for the Winter 2015 Lariat List
Short-listed for the Medici Book Club Prize
A Michigan Notable Book 2016
Black Caucus of the ALA—1st Novelist Award Winner
Finalist for the 2016 Indies Choice Awards
One of O, The Oprah Magazine's "10 Favorite Books of the Year"
One of Entertainment Weekly's "10 Best Books of 2015"
An NPR "Best Book of 2015"
One of Buzzfeed's "The 24 Best Fiction Books of 2015"
One of Bustle's "2015’s 25 Best Books, Fiction Edition"
A Publishers Weekly "Best Book of 2015"
A Kirkus "Best Fiction Books of 2015"
An Essence's "Best Books of 2015"
A Time Out New York "Best Book of 2015"
A Detroit Free Press "Must-read novel of 2015"
A Literary Hub "Best Book of 2015"
One of Men’s Journal’s “The 35 Best Books of 2015”
One of the The Week's "Best Fiction Books of 2015"
A Denver Post “Best Fiction Book of 2015”
One of BookPage's "Best Books of 2015"
A Kobo.com "Must-Read Fiction Debut of 2015"
BAM Top Pick for Spring 2015
May 2015 Indie Next Title
One of Literati Bookstore's "Best Books of 2015"
Morning Sun Bestseller
“An engrossing and remarkably mature first novel...Flournoy’s prose is artful without being showy. She takes the time to flesh out the world...In her accretion of resonant details, Flournoy recounts the history of Detroit with more sensitivity than any textbook could...Flournoy gets at the universal through the patient observation of one family’s particulars. In this assured and memorable novel, she provides the feeling of knowing a family from the inside out, as we would wish to know our own.”—New York Times Book Review, Editors' Choice
"The Turner House speeds along like a page-turner. Flournoy’s richly wrought prose and intimate, vivid dialogue make this novel feel like settling deeply into the family armchair."—Entertainment Weekly (Grade: A-)
“Flournoy has written an epic that feels deeply personal...Flournoy’s finely tuned empathy infuses her characters with a radiant humanity.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
"Angela Flournoy's knockout debut is one of those books that should, by rights, be described as the Great American Novel, as it hits all the points of American life: family, real estate, money, ghosts and loss. Set mostly in Detroit during the financial crisis of 2008, the book tells the story of the 13 adult children of Francis and Viola Turner, who must decide what to do with their family house. The characters are fascinating and funny, and anyone who has played a role in the ecosystem of his family life will recognize the joys and challenges that plague the Turners. But perhaps the strongest character is Detroit itself, as it morphs from bustling modern metropolis to a potent symbol of post-industrial decline."—NPR, "Our Guide to 2015's Great Reads"
"When a made-up family feels as warmly real as the Turners — Francis, Viola, and their 13 children — your heart takes note. And when that perceptive, generation-spanning work turns out to be a debut, so does the National Book Award committee, which short-listed Flournoy’s beautifully written novel for its fiction prize. Whether you’re sitting in oldest son Cha-Cha’s therapy sessions, praying for Lelah to overcome her roulette addiction, or following the years young Francis and Viola spent apart, by the time you reach the book’s end, you’ll almost feel like a Turner yourself."—Entertainment Weekly, "10 Best Books of 2015"
“An elegant and assured debut."—The Washington Post
"Poignant and timely."—San Francisco Chronicle
"Flournoy’s National Book Award–nominated debut does an incredible job of bringing both a family and a city to vibrant, poignant life."—Buzzfeed, "The 24 Best Fiction Books of 2015"
"A sprawling family history that delves into the Detroit housing crisis and the potential legacies the past holds, Angela Flournoy's first novel will be remembered as the start of a brilliant career."—Bustle, "2015’s 25 Best Books, Fiction Edition"
"Epic, ambitious and strikingly executed, The Turner House is an impressive debut novel. In the grand tradition of family dramas by the late Bebe Moore Campbell, it is lively and entertaining, with subtle humor and engaging voice. Flournoy manages the difficult feat of skillfully telling the stories of 13 children, their parents and accompanying spouses and love interests in an irresistible style. Here we have a deeply satisfying portrayal of relationships among those to whom we, for better or worse, are related by blood."—The Root
"Nobody can take you from joyful to infuriated as fast as your brother or sister. Similarly, the ups and downs of the 13 siblings that populate The Turner House, the first novel by Angela Flournoy, whip from laugh-out-loud to heart-crushing. Still, she proves even bonds that have stretched a mile long have the ability to snap back."—Essence Magazine
"With The Turner House, Flournoy has written an utterly unsentimental love story that, rather like the house on Yarrow Street, manages to make room for everyone."—Christian Science Monitor
"A fierce and tender debut novel...Angela Flournoy is the literary anthropologist of Detroit, not so different from the way a young Philip Roth was the literary anthropologist of Newark."—Paterson Fiction Prize Citation
"As a hate-to-admit-it only child, I have always been fascinated by siblings, and The Turner House artfully sketches no less than 13 of them—plus matriarch, patriarch, grandchildren and a handful of supporting characters. Beyond this character balancing act, Angela Flournoy’s novel is also an impressive work of place, illuminating not only the eponymous house, but also the larger city of Detroit, from the Great Migration through white flight and early gentrification."—Literary Hub, "Best Books of 2015"
"Beautifully moving...This book is deeply personal but also clearly representative of one American city's hope in the face of tragedy."—BUST
"[The] dynamite Detroit debut...The Turner House belongs on the shelf with the very finest books about one of America’s most dynamic, tortured, and resilient cities...There are cracklingly alive scenes inside pawn shops and factories, casinos and living rooms. Flournoy has a deft touch with the verbal and psychological sparring between spouses, siblings, and parents and children...One of Flournoy’s great achievements is that she doesn’t draw attention to the fact that virtually every one of her characters is black. This is just part of the novel’s oxygen and furniture, a Detroit given. Therein lies its quiet strength...Angela Flournoy is an exciting new talent whose debut has enriched Detroit’s flowering literature. Read The Turner House, and I’m sure you’ll join me in waiting, eagerly, to see what its gifted author comes up with next."—The Millions
"A masterly domestic drama...Flournoy has a talent for universalising experience from well-observed particulars, and this tale of a black family haunted (literally) by the past and each other is enlivened by perceptive and musical prose."—Sydney Morning Herald
"Detroit is a city often portrayed as past rescue, irrevocably blighted. But Flournoy’s debut novel retrieves it from this through vivid details and equally vivid characters."—Time Out New York, "Best Books of 2015"
"Sensitively and powerfully, [Flournoy] tells the story of the Turners of Yarrow Street, the 13 children they raised and their east Detroit neighborhood that’s hit hard by the city's economic troubles. Jumping back and forth across 50 years of challenges and change, love and loss, ties that bind and memories that haunt, Flournoy creates a vivid portrait of fictional characters in a real city. This is essential reading."—Detroit Free Press, "The Turner House is a must-read novel of 2015"
"The Turner House [is] not only a first novel but a lamentation for and a paean to Detroit, from the mid-1940s to the present day, a funny yet heart-wrenching book, both beautiful and revealing of all the ways close human beings relate to one another (and to places and things) over time."—The Buffalo News
"With the matriarch of a family of 13 siblings in failing health, those who remain close enough to their empty childhood home — in a nearly abandoned East Side Detroit neighborhood — must hash out what to do with the house. Between nostalgia, fraud, secrets and an old ghost, there are as many competing, confounding, unappealing ways forward for the Turners as for their city."—Denver Post, "Best Fiction Books of 2015""It's hard to believe that this moving, beautifully written novel is a debut. In The Turner House, Flournoy tells the story of a large family in Detroit trying to figure out what to do with their childhood home, which has depreciated in value because of urban decay."—Men's Journal, "The 35 Best Books of 2015"
"A thoroughly engrossing saga. Flournoy is adept at conveying the sense that it is with our families where we can most be ourselves."—Rob Kirby, Rain Taxi
"A tale of a city and family in flux, The Turner House is a gripping, nuanced reading, heralding the arrival of a major talent...[It] is reminiscent of other family/city sagas: Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections, Jane Smiley’s Some Luck, the [Jeffrey Eugenides's] Middlesex, all stories of places and their inhabitants. Even if all you know of Woodward Avenue comes courtesy of Bob Seger, even if 8 Mile is only a movie title to you, do yourself a favor and read The Turner House. Once you open its pages, you won’t be able to put it down."—PopMatters
"A lively, thoroughly engaging family saga with a cast of fully realized characters...[Flournoy] handles time and place with a veteran's ease...She puts her own distinctive stamp on this absorbing narrative."--Publisher's Weekly, starred and boxed review
"Encompassing a multitude of themes, including aging and parenthood, this is a compelling read that is funny and moving in equal measure."—Booklist, starred review
"Flournoy's writing is precise and sharp...the novel draws readers to the Turner family almost magnetically. A talent to watch."--Kirkus
“What makes The Turner House profound is its reality, its observation of a family so diverse and well-drawn that they seem real. . . We rarely find such an honest portrait of what it means to be a sibling—defined by your differences as much as your similarities—as the one Flournoy gives us.”—BookPage
"What is rarer, and much more difficult, in a story is to involve numerous family members as point-of-view characters. Faulkner set the standard with As I Lay Dying, and contemporary incarnations like A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan and The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg have run the spectrum. This is exactly the challenge that Angela Flournoy takes on in her debut novel The Turner House, with admirable success...The Turner House is a wonderfully crafted glimpse into the intimacy of family, and shows immense promise for Flournoy."—Bustle
"One of the many strengths of this book — entertaining, well-written and keenly insightful without calling attention to itself — is its clear-eyed, unsentimental vision. Flournoy never ignores the problems afflicting family and place — a 13-child clan and Detroit — even as she pays homage to both."—Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"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!"—Ayana Mathis, bestselling author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
"An expansive and ambitious novel that descends through the generations of one family’s history to achieve real poignancy and power." —T.C. Boyle, bestselling author of San Miguel, The Women, and many 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.”—Tayari Jones, author of Silver Sparrow 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."—Cristina Garcia, author of Dreaming in Cuban, King of Cuba, and others
"Angela Flournoy's The Turner House is masterful: a novel full of history and lies and the myths that can bring a family together, or tear it apart. There are touches of grace and humor in this generous and humane portrait of a family, and a city, in transition. This is a beautiful, elegant, and living novel, one that you will savor until the last, moving paragraph." --Daniel Alarcón, author of At Night We Walk in Circles
“Angela Flournoy’s brilliant The Turner House is about no less than the joy and aggravation of being a human being in a large family, in a house, in a city, on this earth. This book is so beautifully written, so perfectly observed and heard—it’s about aging and parenthood and above all that misunderstood lifelong union, siblinghood—but it’s also pure pleasure to read: funny, heartbreaking, with the sort of characters you’ll miss like family when you finish. The Turner House is an absolutely wonderful novel.”—Elizabeth McCracken, author of The Giant’s House, Thunderstruck, and others
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
- Throughout the book, characters struggle with the concept of belonging— to blood relations, in-laws, and even the city of Detroit. What does it mean to “belong” in a group? How do characters come to terms with their own feelings of belonging by the end of the novel?
- The city of Detroit plays a large role in the way characters see themselves, particularly for Francis Turner in the 1940s. How does the city itself contribute to the story of the Turner family? Can you imagine a similar story taking place elsewhere, or is the story inextricably tied to Detroit?
- Cha-Cha sees himself as the patriarch of the family, but he also has trouble getting his siblings to listen to him. In what ways does Cha-Cha’s view of himself as the leader prevent his siblings from trusting or respecting him?
- In their final meeting (p. 241), Alice tells Cha-Cha that she thinks his haint has made him feel extraordinary, and that she doesn’t think he really wants to let it go. Do you agree with her observation? What might the haint provide to Cha-Cha that he otherwise lacks in his life?
- Alice describes Cha-Cha as the prime minister of his family, and Viola as the queen; she has the title, but is not concerned with day-to-day governance. What is your impression of Viola when you first meet her in the novel, and how does that impression change over time?
- As the baby, Lelah thinks she has missed out on many of the best moments and secrets in Turner family history. How might her role as the youngest have contributed to her addiction to gambling? Do you think she has truly turned a corner by the novel’s end?
- Lelah and David become close very quickly. Why do you think Lelah is drawn to David, and why does David not break things off when he finds out about Lelah staying on Yarrow Street?
- Troy is the only sibling not present at the party that takes place the end of the novel. Did you get the impression that he is on the path to change? Why or why not?
- Both Francis and Cha-Cha have a precarious relationship with belief, both in religion and the supernatural. How does each character’s beliefs shift over time, and what effect do those changes have on their relationship to others?
- Compare and contrast Lelah and Cha-Cha’s reactions to the news of Viola’s worsened condition. What do their reactions tell us about their similarities and differences? What do we learn about their roles in the family?
- The move from Arkansas to Detroit is very important to Turner family history, and it places them among the hundreds of thousands of African Americans who moved North during the Great Migration. How is Francis and Viola’s relationship changed by the move? How do the challenges they face in Detroit contribute to the way they raise their children?
- At its core, do you see the Turners as a strongly bonded family? What does it mean for a family to be bonded, especially when people move further away from one another and start their own families?