The Turner House is about the family once living it, a large family of fifteen in Detroit. The children have gone their own way, father has died, mother who is no longer fit has moved in with her first-born, a son. Flournoy adeptly combines the question ´what to do with the house?’ with the mid-life crisis of the first-born, the gambling problems of the youngest and the economic difficulties of Detroit.
The house, that was once situated in an all Afro-American decent neighbourhood, has ended up, thanks to the banking crisis at the start of the century, in a decrepit slum with high criminality and drug abuse. The pride of those who moved, mostly from the South, to work in a decent well-paid – job has long gone. The family Turner home has become a symbol of the downfall of large American cities depending on traditional industry.
Flournoy focusses her novel on three Turner children and the first years of their parents’ marriage. It shows how Afro-Americans took their rightful place in American society, the one slightly more successful than the other. The problems they face can partly be blamed on the colour of their skin, and partly on character. The first-born is a perfectionist who expects everyone to heed his words (that is to say: do as they are told by him), the youngest sibling faces an addiction and her older brother is a spoilt opportunist. In their lives and in their family they live according to the natural roles they have adopted in their family, without realizing it themselves and without realizing that their reaction to their siblings leads them to decision they come to regret.
The Turner house is a mellow novel. Though it tackles severe stuff it never becomes harsh or edgy. It reminds me of one of those American series about a typical American family with a soft-focus lens smoothing all the ups and downs. One of those comfy series you watch dressed in comfy clothes with a nice cup of tea (or a gigantic bowl of ice-cream if you’re American) snuggled away under a nice soft blanket. It made me thoroughly enjoy The Turner House.