The Turnout

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Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be ballet dancers. That's the fractured tune I had running through my head while reading this. Thanks to years of dancing, one of the characters has feet "like twisted slabs of raw meat." Ick! And that's just one of the many physical traumas. Even worse, the characters are also dogged by long-standing psychic traumas. Which are revealed gradually throughout the book, and you'll say "ick!" to those as well.

I put this on my get-at-library list for reasons that are now obscure; might have been a good review in the WSJ. It turned out (heh) to not be my cup of tea, but I can see why others might like it.

Sisters Dara and Marie run a prestigious ballet school, with Dara's husband Charlie, in a ramshackle old studio. They were all once ballet students themselves, dancing under the tyrannical eyes of Dara's and Marie's mother. Who has a stormy relationship with their father. And, as it turns out, both mom and dad perished years ago in an automobile crash. Yet they seem to haunt everyone.

Set against all this is preparation for the school's annual presentation of The Nutcracker, a huge deal in the community. (Which is maybe the least believable part of the book. These guys are so messed up, I'm not sure they could organize a kid's birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. But go with it.) This has its own issues, as their students have their own foibles and dramas.

Disaster—what should be a minor disaster—strikes when Marie knocks over a space heater and starts a fire in one of the studios. It's quickly extinguished, but repairs are necessary. Which brings in contractor Derek, with a personality that both grates and attracts. He adds another volatile chemical to the poisonous psychosexual stew.

The author, Megan Abbott, tells the yarn with a choppy and creepy nightmarish style; you can feel the incoming tide of dreadfulness threatening our characters. It doesn't work out well for a couple of them.

Last Modified 2024-01-14 4:40 AM EDT