The Turner House by Angela Flournoy begins with the eldest of the 13 Turner children, Cha-Cha, talking about the haint that visited him when he was 14 years old. His father, Francis, tells him “there ain’t no haints in Detroit” which haunts Cha-Cha just as much as the haint for the next 40 years. From there you are welcomed into the chaotic world of the Turners. The novel narrows in on a few of the Turner children – the eldest, Cha-Cha, who struggles with the haint after a truck accident, Lelah, the youngest with a serious gambling problem, and Troy, a police officer trying to finally be validated by his oldest brother.
Their mother, Viola, has moved out of the family home on Yarrow Street in blighted Detroit after a series of strokes. The home on Yarrow holds memories for all of the children, but the house is worth about $4,000 while their mother owes 10 times that amount. As the children struggle with what to do, the home deteriorates as does Viola. And as Cha-Cha, Lelah and Troy struggle with their own demons they are drawn back to the house for reassurance and insight which culminates in an evening of anger and truth-telling.
I enjoyed reading The Turner House and learning about the various Turner children and their relationships with each other, their childhood home and their parents. I also liked that it was set in Detroit and was able to learn more about the city both when Francis and Viola Turner settled there in the mid-1940s and as it became ravaged with crime and poverty.
I would recommend The Turner House to anyone who enjoys stories with interesting, realistic characters dealing with the complications of family relationships, addiction and family history. I think Flournoy did an outstanding job with this novel and opening up the world of the Turners.