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Angela Flournoy

Author of The Turner House

1+ Work 986 Members 56 Reviews

About the Author

Image credit: Author Angela Flournoy at the 2016 Texas Book Festival. By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53333010

Works by Angela Flournoy

The Turner House (2015) 986 copies

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I had high expectations for this one because I'd seen it on so many lists and while it was a fine book it didn't speak to me in any special way.

 
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hmonkeyreads | 55 other reviews | Jan 25, 2024 |
Fun to read fiction and recognize the street names and places mentioned. The role a house plays in the lives of the children who grew up in it is an interesting theme as the children age and face their mother's mortality.
 
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Kimberlyhi | 55 other reviews | Apr 15, 2023 |
“Humans haunt more houses than ghosts do. Men and women assign value to brick and mortar, link their identities to mortgages paid on time. On frigid winter nights, young mothers walk their fussy babies from room to room, learning where the rooms catch drafts and where the floorboards creak. In the warm damp of summer, fathers sit on porches, sometimes worried and often tired but comforted by the fact that a roof is up there providing shelter. Children smudge up walls with dirty handprints, find nooks to hide their particular treasure, or hide themselves if need be. 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.” – Angela Flournoy, The Turner House

This book tells the story of the Turner family and their house in Detroit where thirteen siblings grew up. It focuses on the backstories of matriarch Viola, her husband, Francis, eldest son, Charles, nicknamed Cha-Cha, youngest daughter Lelah, and youngest son Troy. The modern story, set in 2008, is interwoven with scenes from the past seventy years. Viola now lives with Cha-Cha in the suburbs. Cha-Cha is haunted by ghost, called a “haint,” which he first encounters as a child and has stayed with him into his sixties. He is seeing a therapist about it. Lelah’s gambling addiction leads to her eviction and subsequent encampment in the now-vacant childhood home. Troy, a policeman, wants to short-sell the family’s house to his girlfriend.

The author covers a lot of ground. She shows the reader the history of Detroit across the generations, including themes of racial inequality, job loss, deterioration of the inner city, increasing prevalence of addition, and the correlated rise in crimes. I am impressed at her ability to portray this history through a focus on a singular large family. The characters are well-developed and realistic. The pressures on the family members are apparent and worsened by their ongoing emphasis on pride and not directly confronting issues. For example, Lelah’s gambling addiction becomes a major stumbling block, but her pride keeps her from sharing her troubles with her daughter. And Cha-Cha hides the nature of their mother’s illness from his siblings, believing he is protecting them.

One of my favorite scenes is the family gathering, which shows all the siblings and their many children coming together for a celebration of the matriarch’s birthday – this chapter is a wonderful piece of writing and vividly imaginable. The primary downside, for me, is the “haint,” which is a major portion of the storyline. I am not a big fan of stories involving ghosts, though perhaps it is supposed to be symbolic. I also think the ending is rather lackluster compared to the rest. Taken as a whole, though, this is a promising debut and I look forward to reading more from Angela Flournoy.
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Castlelass | 55 other reviews | Oct 30, 2022 |
Serendipitously enough, I read this book at the same time as Beloved. It's no spoiler that both books feature haunted houses, to an extent. But while in Beloved, we find out the mystery of the ghost up front and then spend the book getting to know her, in The Turner House, the question of the haint's identity, cause, provenance, and even existence is what drives the book. Even though the cast of characters is extensive in this book (13 siblings, plus two parents, one therapist, and at least five significant others, all spanning a time jump), it didn't feel crowded. The narrative threads that followed the main characters were cohesive and interestingly intertwined, and the profiles of the side characters that didn't get much more than a look felt like vignettes. If anything, it took me a while to get into the book. The second half felt somewhat like a first half in that I would have been ready to read half as much again by the time I got through the whole thing.

The main reason why I didn't give this book another star is that I felt throughout that the most interesting part of Cha-Cha's wrestling with the haint is the question of whether it's a "real" spirit or whether it's a hallucination and a symptom of clinical mental illness (I don't know if that sentence accurately captures the difference that is up for debate in the book). I think this back-and-forth is a really compelling issue between folk and modern medicine. My issue was that the resolution of the book, with Cha-Cha realizing that the haint was his father and represented the hurt he had done to him as a young boy, kind of felt like Alice was just right the whole time. I love the symbolism (both in this and Beloved) of a ghost as being representative of generational trauma. But I thought this book lost a lot of its potential magical realism in its conclusion. Maybe I'm wrong, though, and maybe this kind of combination of mystical and medical in the nature of the haint was just the right kind of combination to capture a family that's suspended between past, present and future. Ack, idk.
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graceandbenji | 55 other reviews | Sep 1, 2022 |

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