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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Sunday Slowdown, May 24: Thinking of A Free-Range-Reading Summer

Sunday Slowdown The 3 Rs Blog
I posted this on Facebook on May 11:
County auditor arrives this morning for a fiscal review. Back-and-forth with the CPAs to wrap up the 2014 financial audit ASAP. Month-end internal financial reports due in a few days. This is my very own Hell Week. Please send good thoughts!
It’s been more like Hell Fortnight. (I even worked last Sunday, which is why I wasn’t here--a "slowdown" just wasn't a good idea,) But this is a three-day weekend, and I will have just two (still very busy) days in the office after that. Vacation starts on Thursday. I’m kicking it off with a mini-spa day, and the next morning, Paul and I leave for a week in Seattle!

We’re nailing down our sightseeing and activity plans this weekend. So far, our list has the Space Needle, the EMP Museum, and a drive out to Mount Rainier. And now that we are genuine grown-up Americans with passports (as of just two weeks ago), we’d like to make a little side trip over the Canadian border. If you know the area between Seattle and Vancouver and have suggestions for things to see and do, please share them in the comments!

This trip does involve long flights and car rides, but other than on the plane, I’m not sure how much time it’ll leave for reading. Of course, that doesn’t matter, because I must bring books regardless…and since it’s vacation, I really don’t want any of them to be “required reading” galleys. For a few minutes, I considered reading only e-books. I’m bringing my iPad mini anyway, and I have three different e-reader apps on it with a virtual TBR stack in every one of them, so I certainly won’t run short of options. Also, being able to tweak the font size and display settings sometimes makes reading on the iPad more comfortable than a print book…

A summer reading stack The 3 Rs Blog


…but sometimes I just get tired of screens—and after this month at work, I’m in one of those phases. Besides, the more I thought about it, the more I realized I’d miss the physical presence of books in my travel bag and the experience of turning a few pages as I ease into sleep, so I went to my bookshelves. I ended up with a stack far too unwieldy to pack, which didn’t surprise me at all, and was the main reason I’d been thinking about traveling with only e-books in the first place.

I’m looking at a mix of adult fiction, essay collections, and some semi-classic young-adult novels from my Lizzie Skurnick Books subscription…and the truth is, I’d like to read all of it this summer. My vacation will only last for a week, but I now think what I really want is a summer of mostly recreational, free-range reading.

I intend to get some reviews written this weekend, but I will probably hold off posting them till after I get back from my trip. BEA is this week—both the live and Armchair versions–and I suspect that many of you will have other things to do anyway. I’m thinking of just putting up some photo posts and link roundups to keep this space busy over the next couple of weeks…and then we’ll see what happens. Maybe I’ll decide I’d like a summer of recreational, free-range blogging too.

Winchester in the back seat #dog #car
And while we're away, Winchester will get to spend a week hanging out with his friends as Send Rover On Over!
What are you up to this weekend? Are you reading anything good?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Book Talk: ONE THING STOLEN, by Beth Kephart

One Thing Stolen
Beth Kephart
Chronicle Books (April 2015), Hardcover (ISBN 1452128316 / 9781452128313)
Fiction (YA), 272 pages
Source: Publisher-hosted blog tour


Book discussion ONE THING STOLEN Beth Kephart 3Rs Blog

An articulate first-person narrator. A vivid sense of place (often a foreign one). Strong cross-generational relationships. The examination of an issue from an uncommon, unexpected perspective. These are some of the things I’ve found to be characteristic to Beth Kephart’s young-adult novels. These are some of the common elements I’ve come to expect from her fiction. And yet, with all this in common, none of her books ever feels the same as anything she’s done before. Kephart previously explored mental illness in You Are My Only (2011), but her dealing with the subject in One Thing Stolen is quite different.

Rather than resulting from traumatic events, Nadia Cara’s condition arises organically; it’s a rare neurological disorder that begins to show itself during her family’s year in a foreign country.

Nadia was supposed to be her father’s assistant during his sabbatical year in Florence, helping him research the effects of the flood that ravaged the city in 1966, but she’s become unreliable. She disappears for hours at a time. She steals things, and spends half the night weaving them into nests, which she’s hiding under the bed. She’s trying to find a mystery boy with a backpack full of flowers, riding a Vespa. And she, quite literally, can explain none of it—she’s losing the ability to communicate, or even to think clearly, in words.

When your protagonist is becoming increasingly confused and unable to speak, it might seem like an odd choice to employ the first-person narrator. However, Kephart’s gifts with language are beautifully (if perhaps ironically) at work here, conveying Nadia’s fear and disorientation from the inside. It’s effective, disturbing, and dark—and then it’s pulled back from the edge by the introduction of Nadia’s best friend, Maggie, to take over the narration of the last third of the novel and inject a note of determined hope.

Beth Kephart’s fiction doesn’t ignite controversy. It doesn’t address particularly “hot” topics. It doesn’t get attention for being edgy. And yet, I am consistently impressed with this author’s narrative ambition and courage, her interest in exploring unfashionable topics because they’re what matter to her, and her distinctive, gorgeous writing. I don’t read a lot of YA fiction, but I will always read Beth Kephart’s. One Thing Stolen is an intimate, moving portrait of a family in crisis in a strange place, and I think it will stay with me for a long time to come.

Rating: 4 of 5

Book description, from the publisher’s website
Something is not right with Nadia Cara. While spending a year in Florence, Italy, she’s become a thief. She has secrets. And when she tries to speak, the words seem far away. Nadia finds herself trapped by her own obsessions and following the trail of an elusive Italian boy whom only she has seen. Can Nadia be rescued or will she simply lose herself altogether? Set against the backdrop of a glimmering city, One Thing Stolen is an exploration of obsession, art, and a rare neurological disorder. It is a celebration of language, beauty, imagination, and the salvation of love.
From Chapter One:

"If you could see me. If you were near.

"This, I would say.

"Here.

"This is the apartment that does not belong to me. This is where I’ve come to. Florence, Italy. Santa Croce. The second floor off Verrazzano. These are the windows in the front and the windows in the back and the long grainy planks in between. This is what the owners, the Vitales, left behind: Their smell (mothballs, glue, tomato paste). Their winter coats and boots (bear backs and houndstooth). Their razors, creams, and gallon bleaches, their yellow butter tubs and Kool-Aid-colored flasks and wide-bottomed drinking glasses from which the ivy grows. Up the walls, across the picture frames, over a bridge of thumbtacks, that ivy grows.

"See? I would say.

“Here.”

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Reader's Journal: BEING MORTAL, by Atul Gawande

Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End
Atul Gawande (Facebook) (Twitter)
Audiobook read by Robert Petkoff
Metropolitan Books (2014), Hardcover (ISBN 0805095152 / 9780805095159)
Nonfiction, 304 pages
Source: Purchased audiobook (Macmillan Audio, October 2014, ISBN 9781427244246; Audible ASIN B00NPAJ32S)


My father just turned 86 years old. My mother-in-law will be 77 this summer. Both have outlived spouses after decades-long marriages. Both are still able to live on their own, both still work part-time, and both keep busy. But there’s no telling how much longer this status will remain status quo for either of them. The human body is not built to last indefinitely, and while the last century’s dramatic advances in medicine have certainly helped it last many years longer than it once did, things will start to fail eventually. Sometimes this comes dramatically and sometimes it’s gradual, but it will happen.

The knowledge that it will happen doesn’t it make it any easier to think or talk about, but one thing that Atul Gawande attempts to convey in Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End is that actually dealing with what will happen does require thought and conversation, and ideally those take place before things really do start happening.

Bookended by personal reflections on the very different end-of-life experiences of his grandfather and his father, Being Mortal  explores various ways in which modern, developed societies deal with their aging populations. The combined effects of two significant shifts—from extended families living close together to smaller, more geographically-dispersed households, and the simple fact of longer lifespans—have created difficulties we’re struggling to address. We’re still learning what “normal” aging looks like as average life expectancy approaches 80 years. We’re learning that in the absence of specific illnesses, medicine may not offer the most appropriate responses to its challenges; Gawande observes that doctors are trained to cure, and aging simply isn’t curable. However, even in mostly healthy people, aging does produce real physical and mental changes that alter how one functions in the world, and individuals and families need to learn to recognize and make provisions for them. There are many things to consider, and that may need to be revisited often:
  • What can they still manage independently?
  • Do they need In-home help? How much?
  • Would an assisted-living home meet their needs better?
  • Do they need regular, ongoing assistance with medicines or medical equipment?
People with terminal illnesses, regardless of age, may need to confront some of the same questions as the elderly, and Being Mortal also talks about palliative care and hospice—options when treatment fails and cures don’t take. Personal stories illustrate the value of a structured communication tool in making a painfully difficult process somewhat easier to navigate, and maybe even a little less frightening.

Both my husband and I are well into the “midlife” years. We have elderly parents. We have a daughter battling leukemia, and I recently read a very enlightening book about cancer. Mortality is a concern frequently not far from my mind these days, but that doesn’t mean I was in any hurry to read Being Mortal. However, Kim is a lot younger than I am, and she convinced me that I needed to. (Ana and Jenny backed her up.) I don’t know that I’m any more eager to have these thoughts and conversations, but I do think I’m better prepared and equipped to have them now. And since nearly every one of us will need to have these conversations at some point, Being Mortal is a book I’d like to put in everyone’s hands.

Book description, from the publisher’s website
Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that in the end extend suffering. 
Atul Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession’s ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. Gawande offers examples of freer, more socially fulfilling models for assisting the infirm and dependent elderly, and he explores the varieties of hospice care to demonstrate that a person’s last weeks or months may be rich and dignified. 
Full of eye-opening research and riveting storytelling, Being Mortal asserts that medicine can comfort and enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.
From the Introduction:

“I learned about a lot of things in medical school, but mortality wasn’t one of them. Although I was given a dry, leathery corpse to dissect in my first term, that was solely a way to learn about human anatomy. Our textbooks had almost nothing on aging or frailty or dying. How the process unfolds, how people experience the end of their lives, and how it affects those around them seemed beside the point. The way we saw it, and the way our professors saw it, the purpose of medical schooling was to teach how to save lives, not how to tend to their demise. The one time I remember discussing mortality was during an hour we spent on The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Tolstoy’s classic novella. It was in a weekly seminar called Patient-Doctor—part of the school’s effort to make us more rounded and humane physicians. Some weeks we would practice our physical examination etiquette; other weeks we’d learn about the effects of socioeconomics and race on health. And one afternoon we contemplated the suffering of Ivan Ilyich as he lay ill and worsening from some unnamed, untreatable disease.”


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Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Fan(girl)'s Notes (part 2 of 2): MAD MEN, A Seven-Part Novel for Television

(WARNING: The following discusses character and plot points from the seven seasons of Mad Men that may be considered spoilers.)

In Part 1: How this show saw the 1960s (posted Tuesday, May 12, 2015)


MAD MEN: Don Draper (Jon Hamm), via http://www.amc.com/shows/mad-men

The opening of Mad Men’s fourth season suggested that its central question—and perhaps that of the entire run of the show—was “Who is Don Draper?” Viewers had learned much earlier that “Don Draper” was born Dick Whitman, and had escaped his terrible upbringing by appropriating the identity of the commanding officer he’d watched die in Korea. Suspense lingered for years over when and how other characters would learn this about Don, and how they’d react when they did—but the answer to that question isn’t “Dick Whitman.” I’m not sure there is an answer; I think that the fluidity of Don’s identity and sense of self could well be the answer.

(Whether Don is the “falling man” from the show’s opening credits is a question some viewers still hope the series finale will answer.)

He’s one of the most interesting characters who’s ever been on television, but for me, “Who is Don Draper?” stopped being the show’s central question some time ago. What’s continually fascinated me about Mad Men is its women, especially the ones in the office.

The world in which twenty-first-century American working women operate may not be as advanced as we want it to be, but when I watch what Peggy Olson and Joan Holloway Harris have to deal with, I’m glad to recognize that some things really have changed—and mostly for the better. Much of the everyday behavior of their male coworkers would be considered sexual harassment now, but that concept barely existed in the 1960s. It was expected and accepted that no matter how skilled, women would only progress up to a point in the workplace, that they’d quit anyway when they got married and had children, and that men wouldn’t stand to work for them at any stage. But over the course of Mad Men’s seven seasons, Peggy’s talent and drive helped her work her way up from secretary to chief copywriter (and supervisor of several men), while Joan’s reliance on a more traditional female model—sex appeal and manipulation—aided her transition from office manager to account executive (and agency partner) as a divorced working mother.

MAD MEN: Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), via http://www.amc.com/shows/mad-menMAD MEN: Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), via http://www.amc.com/shows/mad-men

To be fair, these two characters did suffer through some of the show’s soapier plots. Peggy spent much of the show’s first season not realizing she was pregnant. She gave the baby up for adoption when it was born, and while it’s been a steady undercurrent in the show ever since—particularly between Peggy and account executive Pete Campbell, the baby’s father—it’s rarely been openly discussed or even acknowledged. Joan got pregnant a few years later, nearly as inadvertently, and no thanks to her awful doctor husband—little Kevin is the last reminder of her long-running, on-and-off affair with Roger Sterling—but that was nothing compared to the literal act of prostitution that “won” her a partnership (and which is one more thing that Pete Campbell has to answer for).

While this wasn’t a “literary” show, technically—not in the “based on the novel” sense, anyway—Mad Men is as close to literature as television ever gets. This was one of the best-written shows of all time–always attentive to detail, and yet it encouraged viewers to read between the lines, adding context through the smart use of visuals in its storytelling Its stories were driven by its characters. The dialogue was frequently brilliant, and the show deserves credit for creating many moments of high comedy (and some lowbrow laughs, too). While there were plenty of times its characters were dishonest with each other—not to mention themselves—the emotional notes the show hits were anything but. Mad Men was genuine, human-scale drama that engaged viewers on every level. I’ve already said how much I’ll miss it, but I’m already planning to watch it again, all the way through—just like when you finish a great book with the joy of anticipating a re-read.

On that note, The New York Public Library has assembled an official Mad Men Reading List of books featured in the series. (Who is Don Draper? He’s a reader!)

Did you watch and love Mad Men? Or did you watch it until you stopped loving it? Tell me what you loved, and what you didn’t, about this landmark TV series.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

A Fan(girl's) Notes (part 1 of 2): MAD MEN, A Seven-Part Novel for Television

(WARNING: The following discusses character and plot points from the seven seasons of Mad Men that may be considered spoilers.)


MAD MEN Season 7 title card via http://www.amc.com/shows/mad-men


I have obsessed over very few TV shows the way I have over Mad Men. (And yes, that includes Supernatural, Doctor Who, and various other TV shows popular with the Con-going set.) I came to it a few years late, immersing myself in the first three seasons via DVD and not getting fully current in my viewing until well into Season 5, but even as some early fans have grown a little disenchanted with the series, my attachment to it has stayed strong. It ends its seven-season run this month,and I’m going to miss it enormously.

Mad Men’s seven seasons spanned the entire decade of the 1960s—its last few episodes take place in 1970—and for the most part, it showed the period the way many people experienced it, with its changes and social upheavals occurring in the background while life went on. Most people felt their effects eventually, but they just weren't actively involved in all of that on day-to-day basis.

However, current events did factor into the plot every now and then: Roger Sterling’s daughter got married on the day John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and most of the wedding guests didn’t show up; Joan Harris’ doctor husband enlisted and volunteered to serve in Vietnam; a fancy awards gala was cut short by the news that Martin Luther King had been shot; everyone watched the moon landing on TV, and then Bert Cooper died. Roger’s LSD experiments and various pot-smoking creative types notwithstanding, Mad Men’s central characters were largely too old, and too busy working and being adults, to live the 1960s as “The Sixties,” and the young characters—primarily Don and Betty Draper’s kids—were mostly kids, and therefore too young.

Mad Men’s 1960s were portrayed through character and an obsessively detail-oriented attention to design, with design frequently employed as a shorthand expression of character. (You can easily kill many hours exploring that topic in Tom and Lorenzo’s “Mad Style” archives.) Longer hair, shorter skirts, wilder colors; Mid-century Modern tables and plastic-covered upholstery; bar carts everywhere. Shifts in hair, clothing, and decorating styles reflected how these characters engaged with the changing world around them…or, as Don’s slicked-back hair and boxy suits might suggest, how sometimes they didn’t.

MAD MEN Season 7 cast, via http://www.amc.com/shows/mad-men

Mad Men takes place in a New York City advertising agency (technically, several of them, thanks to various buyouts, separations, and mergers)--the title references the profession's "ad men" and the industry's home base on Madison Avenue while commenting on the show itself. The setting provides a framework for viewing and commenting on the era's changing attitudes and lifestyles through industry’s role in reflecting and influencing trends and opinions.

This show has been very influential in its own right, but I recognize some of the reasons it has fallen a bit out of favor during the later portion of its run. While there were long-running threads and season-spanning arcs and themes, Mad Men was never especially plot-driven. The show would take its time resolving the questions it raised…when it bothered to answer them at all. Some of the characters were tough to like, and it could grow frustrating to watch them keep making poor decisions and not learning from their experiences, as Alan Sepinwall remarks in his recap of the series' next-to-last episode:
"Mad Men has chronicled a period of enormous social change, yet it's often seemed agnostic on whether individual change is possible. Over the course of the series, fashions changed and opportunities rose for women and minorities, but were the Mad Men characters themselves really changing with the times? Peggy has certainly grown, yet we've seen Don and Roger and Joan and others have epiphany after epiphany, only to eventually lean back on their old habits. (And even Peggy hasn't been immune to backsliding in her personal life, even as she's evolved professionally.) If anything, Don's frequent backsliding has been one of the most common complaints I've heard about the series' second half; the more recent seasons have been more complex and stylistically ambitious, but too many people seemed tired of watching Don make the same damn mistakes year after year."
Then again, those difficult, frustrating attributes were also what made Mad Men's characters appealing. They were intriguing and irritating, complicated and real. I rarely felt that Mad Men was a show I watch to see what happened—I watched to see what would happen to these people, and what they’d do about it.

More about "these people" to some in Part 2 (posting Thursday, May 14, 2015)

Did you watch and love Mad Men? Or did you watch it until you stopped loving it? Tell me what you loved, and what you didn’t, about this landmark TV series.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Slowdown on Sunday: My Reading Mother

"Richer than I you can never be --
I had a Mother who read to me."
                --from "The Reading Mother" by Strickland Gillilan

The Sunday Slowdown The 3 Rs BlogI actually did not have a mother who read to me. In our house, the parent who did the reading aloud was my dad. And once I learned to read for myself, before I entered kindergarten, I really didn't want anyone to read to me.

My mother's eyesight was so poor that she qualified as legally blind--when reading, she had to get so close to the page that it was difficult to share it with anyone else, particularly a young child. Because of her vision, Mom spent much of her time with her nose, quite literally, buried in a book.

Here's the thing: I may not have had a mother who read to me, but I DID have a mother who read, and that is the example that has made all the difference.

Mom took my sister and me on weekly excursions to the library, and when we stopped finding books that appealed to us in the children's section, she gave us gentle direction toward more grown-up reading material. She was curious about the young-adult books we were discovering for ourselves. I sometimes raided the paperbacks on her shelves in return, but as I grew older, that happened less frequently. One of the ways I asserted an independent identity was in cultivating reading interests that diverged from my mother's, and one of the things I regret now is that I was sometimes so reactionary about it.

planting the seeds to grow a reader

My mom was a devoted reader of romance for several years during my teens, and that sent me in the completely opposite direction. I think I may have picked up a Georgette Heyer or two, and I may have sampled a couple of the Regencies, but I had no absolutely use for the Harlequins. To this day, romance is largely a Genre I Do Not Read.

I was more open to sharing Mom's interest in reading fantasy. I think I introduced her to Tolkein via The Hobbit, but she plunged headlong into Middle-Earth after that, and she introduced me to Mary Stewart's Merlin novels and Anne McCaffrey's Dragonriders. Fantasy and its cousins, sci-fi and speculative fiction, have become genres I'm more likely to consume in visual form rather than written, but I do read them every now and then. And while I realize they're "low" fantasy at most, I'm sorry the Harry Potter books came along too late for Mom to discover them; I'm quite certain she would have embraced and loved them all.

I never quite knew what to make of Mom's relatively late-in-life affection for comics. It was awkward. Thirty-odd years ago, comics weren't the pervasive pop-culture force they are today; there was adult-oriented material if you knew where to find it, but most of what was out in the mainstream was still kid stuff. Middle-aged women did not read comic books--but Mom did. Granted, they were mostly Archie collections--which comics nerds like my husband would say don't count--but long after I'd "outgrown" them, she was still bringing them home.

It seems my mother was well ahead of her time. Now, I've become a middle-aged woman who wants to read comics...but I don't, mostly because middle age has brought me some vision challenges of my own. I'm not legally blind, but my eyesight's never been good, and it's gotten complicated over the last decade or so. Things were easier when I was simply nearsighted. Now I wear contact lenses for distance and put reading glasses on over them for close-up work, but tiny print gets tougher for me to read all the time, especially in low light. A lot of the lettering in comics is too small for me to handle comfortably, so I just don't.

As she developed early-onset Alzheimer's, one of the clearest indicators that something was wrong with Mom was that she didn't read any more.

My mother read voraciously, and sometimes indiscriminately. She'd run late, or ignore housekeeping, because she was engrossed in a book. She raised two reading daughters--one of them is now a school librarian, and the other writes about the books she reads; both grew up to be reading mothers, too.

I will always be grateful that I had a mother who read. It's the example--and the love--that has made all the difference.

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Happy Mother's Day to all of my fellow American moms! I hope you're getting to spend the day however you like--maybe with a good book? That's definitely part of my plan!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Book Talk: THE TURNER HOUSE, by Angela Flournoy (via Shelf Awareness)

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (April 14, 2015), Hardcover (ISBN 0544303164 / 9780544303164)
Fiction, 352 pages, $23.00

A version of this review was previously published in Shelf Awareness for Readers (April 28, 2015). Shelf Awareness provided me with a publisher-furnished galley to facilitate the review, and compensated me for the review they received and posted.

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book discussion THE TURNER HOUSE Angela Flournoy The 3 Rs Blog

The childhood summers she spent with her grandparents, and the stories of their dozen children, inspired Angela Flournoy's debut novel, The Turner House.

Francis and Viola turner raised thirteen children in the house on Yarrow Street in Detroit. Viola remained in the changing, crumbling neighborhood long after Francis' death and the departures of their children, but age and illness have finally forced her out too, into the suburban home of her eldest son, Charles ("Cha-Cha"). When it becomes clear that their mother is unlikely to be able to live on her own again, Cha-Cha calls his siblings together to discuss what to do about the house. It's worth far less than its mortgage; even collectively, they can't afford to pay it off, but they can't agree on how--or whether--to keep it, either.

This debate is especially unsettling for Lelah, the youngest Turner, who has secretly moved back into the house after being evicted from her apartment and suspended from her job, both due to her gambling addiction. For his part, Cha-Cha is juggling personal problems alongside the family ones. On leave from his own job as a truck driver after an accident--one that he's convinced was caused by the "haint," a personal ghost that has plagued him since childhood--he's been sent to counseling, but he's finding his therapist more confusing than helpful.

Flournoy could have taken this novel in a number of directions--a sprawling multi-generational saga, a reflection on the impact of urban decay--but chose to structure it on a more intimate scale and center attention on just a few members of the large cast of characters. These are both wise choices for a first novel, although even within these limits, at times the plot threads become difficult to wrangle. Still, the conversations between the Turner siblings ring true, and so do the family's tension and affection. The Turner family--if not their house--offers plenty of potential for more fictional exploration, and one hopes Flournoy has more stories to tell about them.

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The Turners have lived on Yarrow Street for over fifty years. Their house has seen thirteen children grown and gone—and some returned; it has seen the arrival of grandchildren, the fall of Detroit’s East Side, and the loss of a father. The house still stands despite abandoned lots, an embattled city, and the inevitable shift outward to the suburbs. But now, as ailing matriarch Viola finds herself forced to leave her home and move in with her eldest son, the family discovers that the house is worth just a tenth of its mortgage. The Turner children are called home to decide its fate and to reckon with how each of their pasts haunts—and shapes—their family’s future. 
The Turner House brings us a colorful, complicated brood full of love and pride, sacrifice and unlikely inheritances. It’s a striking examination of the price we pay for our dreams and futures, and the ways in which our families bring us home.
From Chapter One:

“The eldest six of Francis and Viola Turner’s thirteen children claimed that the big room of the house on Yarrow Street was haunted for at least one night. A ghost — a haint, if you will — tried to pull Cha-Cha out of the big room’s second-story window.

“The big room was not, in actuality, very big. Could hardly be considered a room. For some other family it might have made a decent storage closet, or a mother’s cramped sewing room. For the Turners it became the only single-occupancy bedroom in their overcrowded house. A rare and coveted space.

“In the summer of 1958, Cha-Cha, the eldest child at fourteen years, was in the throes of a gangly-legged, croaky-voiced adolescence. Smelling himself, Viola called it. Tired of sharing a bed with younger brothers who peed and kicked and drooled and blanket-hogged, Cha-Cha woke up one evening, untangled himself from his brothers’ errant limbs, and stumbled into the whatnot closet across the hall. He slept on the floor, curled up with his back against dusty boxes, and started a tradition. From then on, when one Turner child got grown and gone, as Francis described it, the next eldest child crossed the threshold into the big room.

“The haunting, according to the older children, occurred during the very same summer that the big room became a bedroom. Lonnie, the youngest child then, was the first to witness the haint’s attack. He’d just begun visiting the bathroom alone and was headed there when he had the opportunity to save his brother’s life. “


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