The Turner House

“Most houses are haunted by humans not ghosts”

In the acknowledgements at the end of her book, Angela Flournoy, a remarkably adept, mature debut writer, lists some works of history and oral history that capture Detroit through the 20th century. I would say this book belongs in any anthology meant to capture life in Detroit, or America, in contemporary times. Throughout the book, through some simple math, we can ascertain what era we’re in, near the end there’s even a mention of a historic election (Barack Obama’s in 2008) to help situate the reader. But the real location of this book is in the middle of a family’s current generation.

I can imagine that for some readers some of the book’s action that takes place in therapy sessions, or some of the dialog between family members that finds them discussing feelings or drawing connections may be too on the nose. In my estimation, Flournoy pulled off these moments through her sharp writing, and because the inner lives of her characters are well built throughout the other parts of the book.

With all that praise in mind, I will say something I found missing in this book was a sense of enthralling action or dynamism in emotions. Throughout almost the entire book, I hardly felt swells of emotions because of what a character was experiencing or captured by ideas of what could happen next. There’s plenty to be excited about in Flournoy’s writing, but I could’ve used some more plotting and some more variety in emotions.