Monday, June 20, 2016

Book Review: The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay

Media Type: Ebook (ARC)
Title: The Tumbling Turner Sisters
Author: Juliette Fay
Publisher: Gallery Books
Pages: Ebook; 352
Release Date: June 14, 2016
Source: Publisher
Genre: Historical Fiction

HDB Rating: 3 Keys to My Heart

Recommended to: Readers who enjoy historical fiction with family drama and growth.

Add it on: Goodreads | Amazon | BookLikes
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.

In my quest to discover more Historical Fiction, I've been seeking out stories that deal with concepts that I'm intrigued by. When The Tumbling Turner Sisters was offered to me for review, with its family spotlight and its glimpse into the life of Vaudeville, I knew this was something that I would want to read. Kit, Gert, Nell and Winnie beckoned to me from behind the stage. As I started to dive in, it was obvious that Juliette Faye has done her research on the lives of Vaudeville entertainers. The fierce competition, the dismal accommodations, and the sincere relationships that were struck between these travelers, all come to life on the page. If this era interests you, you're in for a treat.

One of the things I most enjoyed about The Tumbling Turner Sisters were the fascinating people that this family met on their journeys. Juliette Fay manages to create a menagerie of people for the girls to learn from. Some are good, some bad, but all are important to moving forward the lives of our featured sisters. Most of the characters I ended up enjoying the most were these secondary characters. They really brought a richness to the story that would have otherwise been missing. What's really interesting about this aspect of the book, is that it allows Fay to touch on subjects that were in the limelight at this point in time. The sisters encounter racism aplenty, discussions of prohibition, and even women's suffrage.

The problem was that, while the setting is laid out in great detail, our main characters were lacking as narrators. I didn't mind Winnie and Gert for the most part, however I never felt as endeared to them as I ought to have been. They were a little lackluster as narrators, choosing quite often to spend most of their time focused on the travel between spaces rather than the Vaudeville itself. I wanted more of the quirkiness and delight of the Vaudeville stage. Since most of my favorite characters were encountered here, I missed them when the girls were focused on where they were going, and how they would get there. It made things lag a bit.

In fact, a vast majority of this story is focused on the girls and their own individual coming-of-age stories. They love, they lose, and they weather it all by sticking together as a family. It's tough not to fall in love with a family story, especially once where sisters are so close. I only wish that the girls had been a little more fleshed out. The story tried so hard to include all of them, constantly, that it brushed over a lot of what I would have wanted to know about them. I'd have happily read a much longer book if it meant more insight into their personalities, hopes, and fears.

As a whole, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is a solid story. I think that readers looking for a glimpse into the world of Vaudeville, and into the lives of those who were caught up in its midst, will enjoy this lighter read.

FTC Disclosure: I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for my opinion.


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