Turnstiles by Andrea McKenzie Raine

So,this is my first blog post.I first posted this review on Goodreads before starting this blog.Tell me what you think.

19549940                                                                             Title: Turnstiles

Author: Andrea McKenzie Raine

Publication date: December 10th,2013

Genre: General Fiction/Adult/Contemporary

Synopsis:  Martin Sourdough is a homeless person  who has chosen to turn his back on the corporate, material world; Willis Hancocks Jr. is a barrister, an alcoholic philanderer, and a misogynist; and Evelyn (aka Yvonne) is a prostitute. Turnstiles speaks to these social problems through the smaller scope of each character’s individual trials. There is a struggle that exists between the need to serve one’s own needs and the expectation to participate in the larger social scheme. Martin and Willis are both trying to fit into the world, but on their own terms. They are naïve, searching for an Eden-like state of being. Through a broader experience of personal fortune, misfortune, travel, and social interactions, they each learn to accept their path and take control of their own destinies. (Photo and synopsis via Goodreads)


Rating: 3.6/5

Turnstiles can best be described as the story of the quest for the meaning of life by its three protagonists Martin Sourdough,Willis Hancocks Jr. and Evelyn.It follows the lives of these three who are from three different countries,whose means of livelihood are so radically different that ideally there should never have been any reason for their paths to have crossed.But meet they did and it is their chance meetings with one another at different times that prove to be serendipitous,which lead them to their next step of self- discovery.

Martin Sourdough is a Canadian from British Columbia homeless in the streets of London by choice.An artist by passion,he has shunned society and money,with the belief that man does not need money and anybody to survive.His journey here makes him realise that no man is an island.

Willis Hancocks Jr. is a barrister in London who has had a privileged upbringing.Though not wanting in material possession,he is deeply unhappy with his life whose problems root from his parents dysfunctional marriage and his own relationship with his estranged father.He is a confused soul caught in the web of a life he had not planned for himself.His eventual enlightenment makes him understand that he is the master of himself and no one can make him do anything he does not want to.

Evelyn,aka Yvonne,is a prostitute from America who had been forced into the profession at the tender age of twelve.She does according to the bidding of her boss Frank,who has a hold over her.She has to break free from his clutches and realise her self worth to find the meaning of life.

This book is contemporary in its setting with an element of mystery,and some existentialism in it but not wholly.Nevertheless,I would like to catalog it as existentialist fiction because it is the essence of existentialism which stood out to me the most.

Wikipedia defines ‘turnstiles’ as : A turnstile is a form of gate which allows one person to pass at a time. It can also be made so as to enforce one-way traffic of people, and in addition, it can restrict passage only to people who insert a coin, a ticket, a pass, or similar.
As far as I could comprehend,the ‘turntiles’ here are the passages these three characters have to cross in order to reach their destinations,and find the meaning of their existence.

This is more a character driven novel than one with a concrete storyline.But that is the beauty of Turnstiles because it is essentially a study of the human psyche.One does not need to love the characters in order to understand them.In fact,they are riddled with flaws which everyone can identify with.Out of all three I admired Evelyn the most,her resilience and courage are noteworthy.I pitied Willis the most but his was the story I found most interesting.Martin was the character I couldn’t sympathize with,because I could not relate to his bitterness towards life.The book is paced slow with the characters’ musings taking up most of the space.I kept trying to predict its conclusion while reading but nothing could have prepared me for the revelation in the last quarter of the book.This twist in the story is what elevated this book from ordinary to quite an extraordinary story.I’m happy with the way the characters found peace within themselves.Each had to travel his own course to arrive at his own conclusions and find a new meaning in life.

Along with the main characters all the other characters in the story are fleshed out and give meaning to the story.There is Willis Hancocks Sr.,Willis’ father who is already dead by the time the story begins but has a significant presence in the whole book.It is his actions which have the impact on the lives of a lot of people.There is also Ellis,Willis’ mom who was nothing but a living zombie for many years,who comes to life only after her husband’s death.Frank,Evelyn’s ruthless boss,his assistant Maury,Evelyn’s friend and fellow sufferer Bonnie,Martin’s friends in Germany provide a better understanding of the different facets of human life.But it’s Willis’ client Michael Harris’ story which had the most impact on me.He who was oppressed by his wife’s authority,a quiet librarian who loved his wife and honoured his wedding vows ’till death do us part’,is imprisoned for murdering her.His sole defence against his crime is that he was an emotionally abused male who had to kill his wife in self-defence.The reasoning sounds ludicrous but makes an interesting topic for debate.

The writing is beautiful almost poetic with apt metaphors.Even during the times when the characters were stagnant,the writing was never prosaic.Each page had something in it that was thought provoking;at times I would be so overwhelmed by them that I had to stop reading and collect my thoughts.Andrea McKenzie Raine has the flair for writing who did justice by her debut novel and I hope to read more of her contemplative tales in the future.

Copy kindly provided by the author in exchange for an honest review


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