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  • Mandy McHugh

The Turnout, Megan Abbott: A Review

I've read a few of Megan Abbott's previous works, so when I saw this was available, I was excited to read another. I've always been fascinated by ballet, so it's no surprise that I have a soft spot for ballet dramas. The Turnout looked to be right in my wheelhouse. Sisters Dara and Maria run a successful dance studio in their small town. For as long as they can remember, their lives have been centered around ballet: the dance, the dedication, the sacrifice. But things begin to unravel when Maria decides to move out of their childhood home, and an unexpected fire brings a stranger into their equation. Maria doesn't trust him. Dara doesn't care. At odds with each other, and with the annual Nutcracker performance looming, the sisters must figure out a way to persevere, or be destroyed.

I don't know exactly how to express my feelings about this book. I wouldn't say that I liked it, or that I enjoyed it. On the one hand, I loved the breakdown of the behind-the-curtain look at the world of ballet. The competitive nature of solos, the tole it takes on both body and spirit. I've read and seen my fair share of pieces in this genre, but I never tire of the simultaneous depiction of beauty and pain. There is plenty of ballet drama here, although the top-spot competitive drive is more of a background note compared to the relationship between the sisters. They're in the middle of their own dance, and that is the star of the show. Which is where I come to my crossroads. The subject matter is unnerving, and for some, I expect it might warrant a trigger warning. The atmosphere is in a constant state of tension, and I thought Abbott's elevated writing and sharp imagery added to the ethereal suspense that runs throughout the entirety of the book. Much like ballet, and I don't think that was accidental. This is a prime example of a narrative mirroring the symbolic nature of its subject, and that was both clever and engrossing. I couldn't put this down. I read it in two sittings and have been thinking about it ever since. Mostly, this book is an experience, like the first time I watched Mother! or Midsommar. You don't really know why it feels wrong, but it does, and then there's an explosion of chaos. I think it will resonate with many readers, but at the same time, it might also be polarizing. This is a story about the bonds of siblings, the potentially toxic nature of love and power, and the lengths people go in order to find happiness. Overall, The Turnout is a twisty, dark suspense you won't be able to ignore. Big thanks to Putnam and NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for honest review consideration.

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