The Turner House (Paperback)

By Angela Flournoy

Mariner Books, 9780544705166, 352pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 2016

May 2015 Indie Next List

“The greatest testament to the skill of a writer is the ability to make what might seem alien to the reader completely recognizable and utterly engaging. Such was my experience reading The Turner House. Mine is a tiny white family from a small town with no sense of heritage, yet every moment I spent with the Turners -- a family of 13 children shaped by the Great Migration to Detroit -- I felt at home. Their struggles and joys are universal, yet told with an exacting eye that always finds the perfect detail. This is a truly impressive debut.”
— Kim Fox (M), Schuler Books & Music, Grand Rapids, MI
View the List
Advertisement

Description

"Flournoy's knockout debut is one of those books that should, by rights, be described as the Great American Novel." -- NPR
A New York Times Notable Book

Named a Best Book of the Year byO, The Oprah Magazine * Entertainment Weekly * NPR * Essence * Men's Journal * Buzzfeed * Bustle * Time Out * Denver Post * Publishers Weekly * Kirkus Reviews * BookPage * Literary Hub * Kobo * The Week

"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


Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com

  1. 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?
  2. 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?
  3. 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?
  4. 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?
  5. 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?
  6. 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?
  7. 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?
  8. 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?
  9. 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?
  10. 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?
  11. 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?
  12. 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?
Advertisement