The Turnout by Megan Abbott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I received a free advance copy from NetGalley for review.
The thing about Megan Abbott that continues to amaze me even after reading a bunch of her books is how she can get me interested in things I would have said wouldn’t hold my attention at all like cheerleading and gymnastics. Now she’s set a story around a ballet school and once again, I was riveted.
Dara and Marie Durant weren’t raised like most kids. Home schooled by their mother who was a ballet instructor the girls were pretty much raised to dance, and once their parents died in a car crash they took over their mother’s school. Dara married her mother’s best student Charlie who had been living with them for years, and the three of them live together in their childhood home. However, when Marie moves out of the house, and then a new person enters the school in the form of a manly-man contractor named Derek it seems like changes are going to happen whether Dara wants them to or not.
Ms. Abbott does characters with complex relationships extremely well, and she might have done some of her best work yet with the Durant sisters. The most intriguing them to me was how they’ve been in statis. It goes beyond just living in their old house and running the school their mother started because they haven’t changed or upgraded anything since, and Dara in particular seems determined to preserve that status quo as if every aspect was worthy of being in a museum. When Marie starts to rebel against this situation, Dara takes it as Marie trying to abandon both her and their mother’s legacy.
In fact, if this story were about 20% more quirky and 15% less dark, it sounds like the set up to a Wes Anderson movie with an eccentric family stuck in the past and having issues dealing with the future. However, since it’s a Mighty Megan Abbott production things take a turn with secrets being revealed, and the question becomes if Dara and Marie can ever get back to their old routine. And even if they could, should they?
All around great family drama with some crime elements that also drops in a lot of detail about a ballet school from the best way to break in a pair of ballet shoes to how awful the students can be to someone who gets a lead role in the school’s annual production of The Nutcracker.
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