The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Published: 2021 1. First lines. 2. Cover: Hachette 3. Pointe ballet shoes [CC BY 2.0] via Flickr

Dara Durant, with her sister Marie and husband Charlie run the Durant Dance School, left to the girls when their parents died. As they are starting preparations for their performance of The Nutcracker, a fire destroys part of the building, and a contractor called Derek is hired to renovate. Derek creates havoc by stretching out the renovations, by manipulating Marie and by causing tension between the sisters. Dara feels that her insular world is cracking, and is desperate to keep family secrets buried.

“Family secrets are the very worst kind, aren’t they?”

BOOK SNAPS: Both Kirkus and Chicago Review of Books refer to this book as a page-turner, but this reader didn’t have that experience. Even though the tension was there, the characters didn’t pull me into the story, and I felt that repetition was overused. EW comments that the dramatic prose used in examining “the sisters’ distorted psyches” as being appropriate, but I just found it gross. What the author has done, though, is bring the world of ballet schools vividly to life, and like Chicago Review of Books, I’ll “never look at a pointe shoe the same way again.”


“Parents always complain. That’s what makes them parents.”

“Everyone remembers that feeling,- Dara thought. The tortuous waiting of childhood. Waiting for parents, forever, waiting while adults do their adult things. Wanting to understand, the doors always closed. Until the adults finally decide to open them and then there’s no shutting the door again.”

“No one wanted to face the truth. That every family was a hothouse, a swamp. Its own atmosphere, its own rules. Its own laws and gods. There would never be any understanding from the outside. There couldn’t be.”

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