The Turner family consists of Francis and Viola Turner and their thirteen children. Mainly it centers around two of the children, Cha-Cha (the oldest) and the Lelah (the youngest).
Cha-Cha is a parental figure for the other siblings. After his father died he had to step up and became more of a father to the younger Turner children. He handles all the family business and settles all the family squabbles. He serves as the legal guardian for their mother, Viola, who has moved in with him because of her declining health. He calls his parental role a gift and a burden. He is fighting his other demons when a ghost from his past returns to haunt him. He is also mulling over what to do with the abandoned Turner House and the huge amount of money that Viola owes on the house. While the family argues over the fate of their old family home, none of them have to heart to tell Viola that she will never go back to live there.
Lelah, the youngest of the family and the other central character of the novel, is a gambling addict who has lost all of her money, been evicted, and been fired from her job. She struggles with her addiction and relationships with other family members, especially her daughter.
When it comes down to it, this book is really about family. All the family members struggle with some sort of resentment, guilt, anger, jealousy or other unresolved issue from the family’s past. Growing up, each Turner had to fight for parental attention while they lived in crowded house in the city of Detroit. Detroit itself is another character in the novel. It steadily declines with its characters.
The book was good, but I did not feel that it deserved a National Book Award nomination.