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Jenna Bush Hager picks first mystery novel for Read With Jenna book club

Explore the darker side of ballet in Megan Abbott's newest book.
/ Source: TODAY

Summer is the perfect time to get lost in a good mystery novel. As the season comes to an end, Jenna Bush Hager has another thrilling summer read for her club members to enjoy.

For August 2021, TODAY’s favorite book lover is recommending “The Turnout” by Megan Abbott.

“As a profound lover of mysteries, I cannot tell you how excited I am to announce my first Read With Jenna book club pick in this genre,” said Jenna.

Sisters Dara and Marie Durant, along with Dara’s husband, Charlie, run a ballet studio they inherited after the loss of their parents in a tragic accident. Up until now, the three of them have operated in harmony, each holding their own responsibilities in the family business.

Just before the annual "Nutcracker" performance, when a suspicious accident occurs in the studio, a contractor named Derek enters their lives and threatens the delicate balance under which they operate. As Derek becomes a point of fixation for Marie and convinces the trio to undertake a lofty renovation, questions begin to surface about who he is, what he knows and why he is there.

“I love how Megan Abbott looks at the darker sides of things that we all remember, such as ballet classes as children,” said Jenna.

For Abbott, the book was inspired by her childhood fascination with ballet.

“There’s something about the perfectionism. This sort of mask that dancers wear to hide all the work and the sweat and the pain and the sacrifice,” said Abbott. “It felt very powerful to be able to do that.”

The book also explores sisterhood and female friendship through the intricate relationship between sisters Dara and Marie.

"I don’t have a sister, but I have a lot of friends who have really close, complicated relationships with their sisters and I always was so interested in how you could be with them and later one of them will tell you, 'We were having a fight the whole time,'" said Abbott.

Abbott's writing is both literary and compelling as she explores how the past predicts the future.

"As a kid, I loved to stay up late during the summer reading mystery novels with a flashlight," said Jenna. "As I used the light on my phone to finish Megan Abbott’s 'The Turnout,' I was taken right back to the summer nights of my youth."

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