The Tumbling Turner Sisters – Juliette Fay

Schlow Library Selection:

Written from alternating perspectives of middle daughters Gert and Winnie, The Tumbling Turner Sisters by Juliette Fay is a slice of American historical fiction set in vaudeville as its popularity begins to wind down. In order to provide for her family after her husband suffers an accident making it impossible for him to work, the four Turner girls’ domineering mother coincidentally finds her place as their stage mother, turning them into a tumbling act.
Each daughter, from young widow and mother Nell to teenager Kit who is regularly mistaken for an adult because of her height, figures out their own life philosophies through the friendships, romances, humor, and tragedies they experience as they travel the country, improving their act to hopefully make the “big time.” As they interact with fellow vaudevillians ranging from Jewish comedian father figures to African-American love interests, each of the Turners realize they must find their own path to happiness.
Painstakingly-researched and rooted in the author’s own family history, The Tumbling Turner Sisters reveals the rainbow of emotions and experiences hidden behind its black and white history.


For fans of Orphan Train and Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, a compelling historical novel from “one of the best authors of women’s fiction” (Library Journal). Set against the turbulent backdrop of American Vaudeville, four sisters embark on an unexpected adventure—and a last-ditch effort to save their family.

In 1919, the Turner sisters and their parents are barely scraping by. Their father is a low-paid boot-stitcher in Johnson City, New York, and the family is always one paycheck away from eviction. When their father’s hand is crushed and he can no longer work, their irrepressible mother decides that the vaudeville stage is their best—and only—chance for survival.

Traveling by train from town to town, teenagers Gert, Winnie, and Kit, and recent widow Nell soon find a new kind of freedom in the company of performers who are as diverse as their acts. There is a seamier side to the business, however, and the young women face dangers and turns of fate they never could have anticipated. Heartwarming and surprising, The Tumbling Turner Sisters is ultimately a story of awakening—to unexpected possibilities, to love and heartbreak, and to the dawn of a new American era.