“A heartbreakingly resonant debut, The Turtle House is a tender, big-hearted story about women, family, and the complicated history of Texas. These characters, and their tentative, flawed stumblings toward grace, will stay with me.”—Elizabeth Wetmore, author of Valentine
“Sweeping yet intimate, Amanda Churchill’s Turtle House spans cultures and continents. Minnie and her granddaughter Lia are unforgettable protagonists, whose grit and grace will inspire you. Together, they find a way through in this gripping debut.”—Vanessa Hua, author of Forbidden City
Moving between late 1990s small-town Texas to pre-World War II Japan and occupied Tokyo, an emotionally engaging literary debut about a grandmother and granddaughter who connect over a beloved lost place and the secrets they both carry.
It’s spring 1999, and 25-year-old Lia Cope and her prickly 73-year-old grandmother, Mineko, are sharing a bedroom in Curtain, Texas, the ranching town where Lia grew up and Mineko began her life as a Japanese war bride. Both women are at a turning point: Mineko, long widowed, moved in with her son and daughter-in-law after a suspicious fire destroyed the Cope family ranch house, while Lia, an architect with a promising career in Austin, has unexpectedly returned under circumstances she refuses to explain.
Though Lia never felt especially close to her grandmother, the two grow close sharing late-night conversations. Mineko tells stories of her early life in Japan, of the war that changed everything, and of her two great loves: a man named Akio Sato and an abandoned Japanese country estate they called the Turtle House, where their relationship took root. As Mineko reveals more of her early life—tales of innocent swimming lessons that blossom into something more, a friendship nurtured across oceans, totems saved and hidden, the heartbreak of love lost too soon—Lia comes to understand the depth of her grandmother’s pain and sacrifice and sees her Texas family in a new light. She also recognizes that it’s she who needs to come clean—about the budding career she abandoned and the mysterious man who keeps calling.
When Mineko’s adult children decide, against her wishes, to move her into an assisted living community, she and Lia devise a plan to bring a beloved lost place to life, one that they hope will offer the safety and sense of belonging they both need, no matter the cost.
A story of intergenerational friendship, family, coming of age, identity, and love, The Turtle House illuminates the hidden lives we lead, the secrets we hold close, and what it truly means to find home again when it feels lost forever.
Amanda Churchill is a writer living in Texas. Her work has been featured in Hobart Pulp, Witness, River Styx, and other outlets. She was a Writer’s League of Texas 2021 Fellow and holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from the University of North Texas. The Turtle House is her first novel.
"Spanning generations and continents, The Turtle House is a gorgeous, wise, and assured debut. Amanda Churchill sweeps us through the twentieth century to find, on the other side of war, grief, and isolation, the lasting comfort of family—of home.” — Julia Phillips, author of Disappearing Earth
"A heartbreakingly resonant debut, The Turtle House is a tender, big-hearted story about women, family, and the complicated history of Texas. These characters, and their tentative, flawed stumblings toward grace, will stay with me." — Elizabeth Wetmore, author of Valentine
"Sweeping yet intimate, Amanda Churchill’s Turtle House spans cultures and continents. Minnie and her granddaughter Lia are unforgettable protagonists, whose grit and grace will inspire you. Together, they find a way through in this gripping debut." — Vanessa Hua, author of Forbidden City
“An impressively wrought series of settings, from prewar provincial Japan, to wartime housing on a U.S. Army base, to small-town postwar America…. In each of these places, Churchill highlights the challenges faced by girls and women, from oppressive cultural norms to domestic violence and sexual harassment. She deftly manages a very large cast of characters and a complicated plot. This lovingly illuminated double portrait asks us to think about what has changed and what has not, and at what cost.” — Kirkus Reviews