The Turnout by Megan Abbott is a dream-like story incorporating ballet, childhood trauma, and peculiar family relationships.
Sisters Dara and Marie along with Charlie (their unofficially adopted brother who is now Dara’s husband) have been running their mother’s ballet school ever since both parents died in a fatal car crash. Dara is the more stern, serious sister in charge of the older students, while Marie is the quieter, flighty sister in charge of the younger students. Charlie takes care of the business side since his body suffers from the extreme demands of competitive dance.
The story hints at something unseemly from the girls’ past. Their lives have been consumed with ballet and sexual innuendo since early childhood. Their secrets begin to surface once Marie’s space heater starts a fire in the studio’s attic. This event introduces contractor and swindler Derek on scene. Derek is the ultimate con artist, using Marie to get closer to their family secrets and possessions. Dara discovers that Derek’s presence is more than a coincidence.
It is Nutcracker season, and the novel’s momentum builds alongside the show’s production. Plenty of drama, jealousy, secrets and a murder are scattered throughout the story.