2 Chill-Out Books to Read Over July 4 (and More)
Perfect for by the pool—or after the
barbecue—these novels suck you in with charm, intelligence and
the complexities of the human heart.
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The Turner House
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
What is most exciting about Angela
Flournoy’s debut novel, The Turner House, is that while history is everywhere
in it—haunting its characters, embedded in the walls of the titular house and
in the crumbling streets of Detroit-the book tingles with immediacy. Flournoy
has written an epic that feels deeply personal. Through the
Turners–Viola and Francis and their 13 children, all of them strive to leave
behind memories of hopelessness and partake of the American dream—she tells the
story of the Great Migration. The book is ambitious but never pedantic because
Lelah, Cha-Cha, and the others who grew up on Yarrow Street feel so much like
living, breathing people. When Lelah—who’s hit bottom at age 41 after losing
her job and her apartment (not to mention her pride) to a gambling
addiction—sits at a roulette table deliberating whether to place another bet,
we feel her anguish and her adrenaline rush. When her lover discovers she is
squatting in the now abandoned home where she grew up, we expect both her shame
and the liberation confession brings.
As the oldest of the clan, Cha-Cha is the center of gravity, the one everyone depends on. He's thrown off balance by the reappearance of a haint he first saw as a child, which causes him to crash his truck and ultimately rethink his life. The scenes in the office of the therapist he's mandated to see after the accident are poignant and unsettling—they gleam with both the possibility of growth and the risk of never being able to return to the person he once was.
Growing up, Flournoy spent time in her grandparents' Detroit home, where they raised their 13 children. In writing the book, she was inspired by something Zora Neale Hurston once said, "Mouths don't empty themselves unless the ears are sympathetic and knowing." In the end, it is Flournoy's finely tuned empathy that infuses her characters with a radiant humanity.
— Leigh Haber