NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
A powerful, timely debut, The Turner House marks a major new contribution to the story of the American family.
The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone—and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts—and shapes—their family’s future.
Praised by Ayana Mathis as “utterly moving” and “un-putdownable,” The Turner House brings us a colorful, complicated brood full of love and pride, sacrifice and unlikely inheritances. It’s a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams and futures, and the ways in which our families bring us home.
Trouble in the Big Room
The eldest six of Francis and Viola Turner’s thirteen children claimed that the big room of the house on Yarrow Street was haunted for at least one night. A ghost — a haint, if you will — tried to pull Cha-Cha out of the big room’s second-story window.
The big room was not, in actuality, very big. Could hardly be considered a room. For some other family it might have made a decent storage closet, or a mother’s cramped sewing room. For the Turners it became the only single-occupancy bedroom in their overcrowded house. A rare and coveted space.
In the summer of 1958, Cha-Cha, the eldest child at fourteen years, was in the throes of a gangly-legged, croaky-voiced adolescence. Smelling himself, Viola called it. Tired of sharing a bed with younger brothers who peed and kicked and drooled and blanket-hogged, Cha-Cha woke up one evening, untangled himself from his brothers’ errant limbs, and stumbled into the whatnot closet across the hall. He slept on the floor, curled up with his back against dusty boxes, and started a tradition. From then on, when one Turner child got grown and gone, as Francis described it, the next eldest child crossed the threshold into the big room.
The haunting, according to the older children, occurred during the very same summer that the big room became a bedroom. Lonnie, the youngest child then, was the first to witness the haint’s attack. He’d just begun visiting the bathroom alone and was headed there when he had the opportunity to save his brother’s life.
Three-year-olds are of a tenuous reliability, but to this day Lonnie recalls the form of a pale-hued young man lifting Cha-Cha by his pajama collar out of the bed and toward the narrow window. Back then a majority of the homeowners in that part of Detroit’s east side were still white, and the street had no empty lots.
“Cha-Cha’s sneakin out! Cha-Cha’s sneakin out with a white boy!” Lonnie sang. He stamped his little feet on the floorboards.
Soon Quincy and Russell spilled into the hallway. They saw Cha-Cha, all elbows and fists, swinging at the haint. It had let go of Cha-Cha’s collar and was now on the defensive. Quincy would later insist that the haint emitted a blue, electric-looking light, and each time Cha-Cha’s fists connected with its body the entire thing flickered like a faulty lamp.
Seven-year-old Russell fainted. Little Lonnie stood transfixed, a pool of urine at his feet, his eyes open wide. Quincy banged on his parents’ locked bedroom door. Viola and Francis Turner were not in the habit of waking up to tend to ordinary child nightmares or bed-wetting kerfuffles.
Francey, the eldest girl at twelve, burst into the crowded hallway just as Cha-Cha was giving the haint his worst. She would later say the haint’s skin had a jellyfish-like translucency, and the pupils of its eyes were huge, dark disks.
“Let him go, and run, Cha-Cha!” Francey said.
“He ain’t runnin me outta here,” Cha-Cha yelled back.
With the exception of Lonnie, who had been crying, the four Turner children in the hallway fell silent. They’d heard plenty of tales of mischievous haints from their cousins Down South — they pushed people into wells, made hanged men dance in midair — so it did not follow that a spirit from the other side would have to spend several minutes fighting off a territorial fourteen-year-old.
Francey possessed an aptitude for levelheadedness in the face of crisis. She decided she’d seen enough of this paranormal beat-down. She marched into Cha-Cha’s room, grabbed her brother by his stretched-out collar, and dragged him into the hall. She slammed the big-room door behind them and pulled Cha-Cha to the floor. They landed in Lonnie’s piss.
“That haint tried to run me outta the room,” Cha-Cha said. He wore the indignant look — eyebrows raised, lips parted — of someone who has suffered an unbearable affront.
“There ain’t no haints in Detroit,” Francis Turner said. His children jerked at the sound of his voice. That was how he existed in their lives: suddenly there, on his own time, his quiet authority augmenting the air in a room. He stepped over their skinny brown legs and opened the big room’s door.
Francis Turner called Cha-Cha into the room.
The window was open, and the beige sheets from Cha-Cha’s bed hung over the sill.
“Look under the bed.”
“Behind the dresser.”
“Put them sheets back where they belong.”
Cha-Cha obliged. He felt his father’s eyes on him as he worked. When he finished, he sat down on the bed, unprompted, and rubbed his neck. Francis Turner sat next to him.
“Ain’t no haints in Detroit, son.” He did not look at Cha-Cha.
“It tried to run me outta the room.”
“I don’t know what all happened, but it wasn’t that.”
Cha-Cha opened his mouth, then closed it.
“If you ain’t grown enough to sleep by yourself, I suggest you move on back across the hall.”
Francis Turner stood up to go, faced his son. He reached for Cha-Cha’s collar, pulled it open, and put his index finger to the line of irritated skin below the Adam’s apple. For a moment Cha-Cha saw the specter of true panic in his father’s eyes, then Francis’s face settled into an ambivalent frown.
“That’ll be gone in a day or two,” he said.
In the hallway the other children stood lined up against the wall. Marlene, child number five and a bit sickly, had finally come out of the girls’ room.
“Francey and Quincy, clean up Lonnie’s mess, and all y’all best go to sleep. I don’t wanna hear nobody talkin about they’re tired come morning.”
Francis Turner closed his bedroom door.
The mess was cleaned up, but no one, not even little Lonnie, slept in the right bed that night. How could they, with the window curtains puffing out and sucking in like gauzy lungs in the breeze? The children crowded into Cha-Cha’s room — a privileged first visit for most of them &m...
National Book Award Finalist
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 Tur...
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