The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

book review

Did you ever read one of those books where you finish the last page and accost the next person you see and tell them everything you loved about it? That’s what we’re doing with this new series of blog posts. Every month, we’ll give tiny interviews about a book we’ve both read and loved.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy


Favorite line:

Andi: “Viola’s room shouldered a burden designed for a much larger space.”

Beth: “We live and die in houses, dream of getting back to houses, take great care in considering who will inherit the houses when we’re gone.”

Cover thoughts:

Andi: I love covers that don’t feature faces, and this one (hardback), while subtle, was welcoming. The falling maple helicopters (and who doesn’t remember making noses out of helicopters ever fall, country kid or city kid?) gesture toward a time of endings, of dyings, or hauntings, all of which are contained betweens those cardboard covers.

Beth: I loved the hardcover, the white background and the muted colors softcovergave it an understated look which made it stand out on the shelf. I’m not as crazy about the paperback. Those vibrant colors remind me more of a beach house than a family home in the city. Still, I hope it makes people interested enough to pick it up. It’s a great read.

Something surprising:

Andi: I live in an extraordinarily protected bubble of rural home ownership and while I know with my head that there are neighborhoods where houses that carry a $40,000 mortgage are only worth $4,000, the immediacy of the problem for the Turner family was a surprise. I don’t think I’d encountered this particular socio-economic problem with my gut before.

Beth: Whenever a reference was made to Detroit–a street or a neighborhood–I would sometimes get a little jolt of recognition. My husband is from Detroit and I’ve gone there with him occasionally to meet family, especially when we lived in Ann Arbor. We didn’t live there long, and it was over fifteen years ago, but it gave me a deeper connection to the sense of place in this novel, the characters and their motivations.

I also enjoyed the look into the marriages of several of the couples and how they didn’t shy away from hardship and tragedy. They could have just as easily walked away from their marriages, yet instead they joined together as a force to be reckoned with. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the word commitment.

What this book reminds me of:

Andi: Anne Tyler’s A Spool of Blue Thread. I think because of the sprawling family and the house at the heart of it. But The Turner House focuses more on gritty reality. Also, that song by the Decemberists, Rox in the Box kept running through my mind, I think because the Turner patriarch spent time working the salt mines. Which I’m sure are vastly different from coal mines, but still.

Beth: Anne Tyler is my go to when I think about family stories. But I also love generational stories that weave back and forth between decades. Jeffrey Lent’s In the Fall and The Good House by Ann Leary come to mind. There’s something so satisfying about inhabiting a world that is structured within the walls of a house or a family.

Snack or beverage that pairs best with this book:

Andi: Barbecue, please. And a Corona.

Beth: When the Turners get together there is always a feast prepared, though Tina is the one to conduct the balance of dishes from behind the scenes. I will admit to getting a bit hungry when I read some of those passages. For the Turners, food is an integral part of their massive family get-togethers. During my childhood, my grandmother made potato salad for dinner on most holidays. It was always my job to taste and see if there was enough vinegar, enough sugar, enough salt. I still remember my grandfather peeling the potatoes after they were boiled. He did it carefully so as not to burn himself. This recipe is one of the few I have from her and can often be found on our holiday table.

Setting in which this book is best read:

Andi: I really wish I could’ve had the chance to read this book on a city park bench. But some of it I read lying on our picnic table in the sun, and that worked out pretty well. Our picnic table is nearly as old as the years we’ve lived here and it’s more splinters that smooth wood. If I were feeling poetic I could wax on about how the table is like the family, rooted and cracking but still held together with a sense of duty and integrity.

Beth: I listened and found the narrator to be talented and her reading compelling. I loved her inflections and the rhythm and cadence for some of the characters. It felt like a performance and really made it a fleshed out experience. I listened in the car, in my basement on my bike and anywhere else I happened to have a free moment. It was engrossing discovering how they came to get the house.

If you have a chance:

Listen to the So Many Damn Books podcast and find out how to make your own Aint No Haint drink.

Also worthy: the latest interview on Buzzfeed.

Have you read The Turner House? What did you think?

4 thoughts on “The Turner House by Angela Flournoy

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