“Humans haunt more houses than ghosts do.”
On the surface it would be easy to read and digest (perhaps even to dismiss) The Turner House as a simple family saga. To do so would be to miss the point entirely, and to miss an incredibly layered portrait of America, Detroit, racial politics, and more.
The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street in Detroit for fifty years now. They raised thirteen children there and survived many hardships to stay there. But now their matriarch is old and not well, and the house is worth only a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children (grown and with children of their own now) must decide what to do, but each Turner has their own motive, their own history to cling to or let go of, and their own future to face up to. Letting go is never easy, but time never cares much for sentiment. Time moves on whether you let go or not.
Flournoy tells their stories in beautifully weaving chapters–focusing in on some characters, glancing over others. The quilt that emerges is comforting and familiar and deeply resonant. Turners are renowned for their stubbornness, but that trait comes out in many different forms from person to person. One may be stubbornly self-destructive, another may be stubbornly dutiful, another may be stubbornly bitter, and so on.
The true magic of The Turner House is that within these pages you can think about heavy topics like race, religion, economic injustice, crime and corruption, addiction, and more–all while chilling in a beach chair without ruining your vacation vibe by getting irritated. Equally astonishing, it addresses these profound topics without ever feeling too preachy. It may dip a toe in those waters here and there, but it never stays long. That Flournoy can balance such an impossible number of themes without losing focus is nothing short of incredible–and when I turned to her author photo and saw how young she is, well, I admit I felt a pang of jealousy for her talent as a writer. This girl is going places. And I for one can’t wait to see where she goes next.