REVIEW: The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay
The Tumbling Turner Sisters
by Juliette Fay
In 1919, the Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by. Their father is a low-paid boot-stitcher in Johnson City, New York, and the family is always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father’s hand is crushed and he can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that the vaudeville stage is their best—and only—chance for survival.
Traveling by train from town to town, teenagers Gert, Winnie, and Kit, and recent widow Nell soon find a new kind of freedom in the company of performers who are as diverse as their acts. There is a seamier side to the business, however, and the young women face dangers and turns of fate they never could have anticipated. Heartwarming and surprising, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is ultimately a story of awakening—to unexpected possibilities, to love and heartbreak, and to the dawn of a new American era.
MY THOUGHTS: 4 OUT OF 5 FLEURS DE LIS
I knew next to nothing about vaudeville when I started this novel, and though it didn’t delve especially deep, I felt I learned a ton about it–but most of all, I enjoyed the journey.
At the book’s opening in 1919, a father injures his hands and it puts him out of a job. The mother, Ethel, has always had dreams of fame and know now is the chance to grasp those dreams, through her four daughters. Soon Nell, Gert, Winnie, and Kit are traveling the vaudeville circuit, meeting all sorts of interesting people, and falling in love.
The book is told in alternating chapters from Gert and Winnie’s points of view. Gert is the second oldest sister. She’s attractive, knows it, and uses it. She’s always felt too big for her small town. Winnie is the third sister, smart, bookish, and driven. She’s also the peacekeeper. Most of the time she and Gert butt heads, but as the family goes on the road together, they have to rely on each other and find themselves coming closer together.
The heart of the book is a coming of age theme, but there are love stories, grief, racism, and other issues touched on as well. The author did a great job of putting lots of relevant historical facts of the time into the novel without making them feel shoehorned in.
Each sister and each vaudeville character we meet definitely has their own unique personality. Some are helping the Turner sisters, and some just want them to get out of their way. Every performance is different, every city they stop in has its own feel.
I think if you enjoy history as well as a great story with fascinating characters then you’ll love this novel. I was a bit heartbroken at the events in the end, but I suppose it’s more realistic than a happily ever after, perfect ending for each person in the story.
About the Author
Juliette Fay is the award-winning author of three previous novels: The Shortest Way Home, Deep Down True, and Shelter Me. She received a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from Harvard University. Juliette lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children. The Tumbling Turner Sisters (Gallery Books/S&S) is her fourth novel.
To learn more, visit JulietteFay.com.
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