Sunday, 5 June 2016

Review: The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay

For fans of Orphan Train and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, a compelling historical novel from “one of the best authors of women’s fiction” (Library Journal). Set against the turbulent backdrop of American Vaudeville, four sisters embark on an unexpected adventure—and a last-ditch effort to save their family.

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.

Hardcover, 352 pages
Expected publication: June 14th 2016 by Gallery Books 
Genre: Historical Fiction

Kristine's Thoughts:

**I received an advanced readers copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster Canada in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!**

This book was set during the Vaudeville era which I knew absolutely nothing about. Before opening the book I thought it meant circus only to find out that it was a series of stage shows featuring all kinds of different acts, skills, and talents. In 1919 when this book began and before movies, television and radio were considered real contenders, vaudeville was one of the biggest forms of entertainment.

It all began when the Turner sister's father got involved in a fight and his hand got damaged leaving him unable to perform his duties as a boot-stitcher. With no income and no way to pay the rent, their mother who was always looking for a way to improve their lot, had the girls practise a tumbling routine in preparation for the stage. With a lot of luck they found themselves with an agent and travelling (leaving their father at home) to some of the smaller venues on the circuit.

There were four Turner sisters but the book was told from Winnie and Gert's point of view. Kit was the youngest at thirteen and had struggled to fit in. Being unusually tall for her age, she was often made fun of by other kids. 17 year old Winnie had dreams of going to college and becoming a nurse or a doctor. Gert at 18 wasn't one hundred percent sure what she wanted but she knew she wanted more than her hometown could give her. Nell was the oldest and recently widowed at twenty two with an infant son. Under their mothers strict instructions they left for the vaudevillian life.

This book took you through the struggles that the family encounter while living on the road from theft to young love and forbidden love. In a sense, it was a coming of age story for the Turner sisters. Not only were they struggling to find their spot on the stage but they were also struggling to find themselves.

It was pretty easy to tell that Fay did her research and there were many historically accurate events that took place within the pages. Everything from war, prohibition, racism and suffrage were in the background of this story. Also from reading the author's notes and acknowledgements there was a family history in vaudeville.

All in all, I really liked this book. The Turner family quickly took a place in my heart with the exception of the mother. I won't deny that the cover threw me off and I was quick to judge but I was pleasantly surprised. Don't judge a book by its cover certainly applied with this book.

About the Author
Juliette Fay’s latest novel, The Tumbling Turner Sisters (Simon & Schuster), recounts the adventures of a poverty-stricken family of four girls who try their hand as an acrobatic act in vaudeville in 1919. It was inspired by the life of her vaudevillian great-grandfather. Available now for pre-order; publication date: June 14.

Juliette has three previous novels. The Shortest Way Home was chosen as one of Library Journal‘s Top 5 “Best Books of 2012: Women’s Fiction.” Shelter Me was a 2009 Massachusetts Book Award “Must-Read Book” and on the American Booksellers Association’s Indie Next list. Deep Down True was short-listed for the Women’s Fiction award by the American Library Association.

Juliette received a bachelor's degree from Boston College and a master's degree from Harvard University. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and four children.  

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