Review: The Turner House

“The Turner House” follows the story of a black family of thirteen children, and their family home on the east side of Detroit. I listened to it on audiobook, and finished it last night. Usually, I’d just write a review on Goodreads and leave it at that. However, something about this book just thrilled me altogether. My only complaint is really that I wanted to know mo
re. I wanted more information about what happened after the book ended. But the big thing was that it reminded me of so many things within my own family, on both sides, and made me laugh and smile and nod as I listened.

In the story, each sibling is grown and out of the house, and the siblings that still live in Detroit are gathering together to try to figure out what to do with their childhood home, the house on Yarrow Street. The mortgage is upside down, and is worth far less than they owe on it. If you can imagine what trying to come to a decision among thirteen kids is like, that’s what happebjcx-square-1536ns throughout the book.

The story weaves in Francis and Viola’s (the parents) story, of how Francis left Viola and their oldest son Cha-Cha in Arkansas while he went north to Detroit to find a job and come back for them eventually during the 1940’s. We follow the oldest son Cha-Cha, while he deals with seeing a haint at night; Troy, one of the youngest, who is now a police officer and is attempting to find a solution for the Turner House on his own, and Lelah, the youngest, who has a gambling problem and has lost her house and her job. These three are the main focuses of the story, but we get enough perspective on the rest of the children to understand what they’re like and laugh when something that could be perceived an inside joke is said within the story.

Like Francis, my grandpa (on my dad’s side) left my grandmother to find work and send for her later, except he went to California from Oklahoma. I was never able to meet either of them, much as I wish I had, and it was interesting to read about a couple’s experience of going through this time apart in order to help propel their family toward a better future, and the difficulties that could present, both because of the time spent apart, and the time period they were living in, where although there might not have been Jim Crow laws necessarily, but there was surely racism and segregation to deal with while each of them were in their separate places.

On the other hand, my grandma (on my mom’s side) is the oldest of thirteen. They grew up in New Mexico, and she was the first to come to California, and led the way for the rest of her family to follow her. Sometimes when I was reading about Cha-Cha and his leadership of his family, it reminded me of my grandma. My grandma is tough as nails, and is definitely highly respected in the family.

The ability to relate to the characters in this book helped make me enjoy the story that much more. All of this aside, it is an incredibly well-written book and is Flournoy’s debut novel. She also did a good job of making Detroit itself into a character, and inserting narrative about the housing crisis, redlining, and other issues facing the city without hitting you over the head with it. And ultimately, all around it made me feel a huge swelling of appreciation for my own family.

I’d recommend it highly. I am really intrigued by what Angela Flournoy will write next.

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