Four sisters launch a vaudeville act to rescue their working-class family when it falls on hard times.
The vaudeville era is authentically brought back to life in The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay (The Shortest Way Home). The story follows the plight of a hardworking, near-poverty-level family in Johnson City, N.Y., in 1919 after the patriarch, Frank, a lowly shoemaker, has his hand crushed when he tries to break up a barroom brawl. With Frank unable to work and bills piling up, determined mother Ethel, who'd always craved stardom, seeks to remedy the family's misfortune by recruiting her four daughters (ages 13 to 22) into forming a sister act of vaudeville tumblers.
The story is told from the perspectives of the middle sisters: Winnie, who wants to go to college and become a doctor, and Gert, no-nonsense and curvy-figured, who longs for a better life than her mother's. Rounding out the quartet are Kit, the youngest and tallest of the bunch, and Nell, the oldest, a young mother and recent widow. It doesn't take long for the sisters to attract the attention of an agent, who launches them on a tour through upstate New York, where they encounter a host of colorful performers including a Yiddish comedy duo, an African American tap dancer, Italian immigrant musicians and temperamental animal handlers.
As the girls and their mother become immersed in the grueling vaudeville circuit, their mettle is tested. They are forced to discover who they are and the realities of life amid romantic attractions, con men and issues of women's rights and racial discrimination. Fay's historical novel probes the personal lives and questions of the era with adventure and aplomb.
Gallery Books, $24.00 Hardcover, 9781501134470, 352 pages
Publication Date: June 14, 2016