Rich, chaotic and wonderful.

turner houseThe Turners’ home, in a part of Detroit that was left desolate by white flight and the GFC, has 3½ bedrooms for the 15 members of the family – one for parents Viola and Francis, one each for the boys and girls, and the “half” for the eldest.

It is there that 14-year-old Charles (Cha-Cha) sees a “haint” – a glowing blue emanation that tries to drag him out of the second-floor window.

The haint never quite leaves him, and its arguable existence long remains a source of conflict in the family.

The Turner House looks at the early days of Francis and Viola’s marriage, and on the grown-up children trying to work out what to do with the family home, which now stands empty.

They are also planning a big family birthday party (there are so many, they are clustered into just four a year) that will principally celebrate Viola, now in her 80s and dying.

Cha-Cha has become obsessed about the haint, and the youngest, gambling addict Lelah, is trying to get her life back together, while next-youngest Troy has a secret plan to save the house.

This is a skillful debut from Flournoy, with writing that is sharp and precise and a big cast of clearly drawn, believable characters. It picked up several awards and was a finalist for the US National Book Award.

This review first appeared in the Herald Sun’s Weekend magazine. The book was published in April 2016.