Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Book Review | The Family Next Door: The Heartbreaking Imprisonment of the Thirteen Turpin Siblings and Their Extraordinary Rescue


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

This story is horrific. I remember being in such shock when the story broke. I don't know why I am still surprised at the level of torture one human can visit on another, but a set of parents abusing their thirteen children in such awful ways?

A little over two years ago one of those thirteen children, a seventeen year old who had never been out of the house in her entire life (except for when the family was relocating from one place to another) call 911 and reported that she and her siblings were being abused, had been chained to their beds, only allowed to shower once a year, were not allowed to eat or use the bathroom without permission, and so on and so on. Only the two-year-old was spared any kind of abuse or punishment. When the police arrived on the scene, what they found was so horrific, so disgusting, it was difficult to even breathe. Literally. Because the smell alone was so overpowering. The children, ranging in ages from 29 on down to two, were rescued and their parents have since been sentences to 25 years-to-life after both pleaded guilty to the charges. I hope these scumbags are never free again.

The book itself was a very quick read, and that's not really a good thing in this case. There is no new information about the case itself, though we are given a lot of information about prior generations of the family on each side, and there is a lot of abuse there as well. I already knew pretty much everything that was in this book, because there did not seem to be any actual 'investigating' of the story. You can piecemeal together articles online and find all the same stuff. Capitalizing off a hot story is not going to get one very far if the information contained in the book is available elsewhere for free. Which it all is.

I followed some of the case during the sentencing phase and two of the Turpin children spoke at the hearing. I feel like there is hope for all of them, but it will be a tough road. And this book honestly could have waited, so it could fully include that aspect of the story. We don't need to know their names, where they live now, where they go to school, or anything of that nature, but there is so much more to this story. These siblings should not be defined by what their parents did to them, but by who they become due to their own effort. It would be interesting to know if they're all together, or how the younger ones are doing if they are split up or not. All of the Turpin children will be traumatized for the rest of their lives to one degree or another, and the older siblings will probably be worse off than the younger ones. Physically they will heal (the oldest child, at age 29, weighed 82 pounds when she was rescued) but emotionally and mentally, there would have to be years and years and years of intensive therapy to not only heal but to break the cycle of abuse. There's no real knowledge of the aftermath and part of the reason for that and this being a quick read is because the aftermath is still happening, and will be happening for quite some time. This book could have been written a few years from now and better represent the story as a whole, because the story didn't end with their escape - that is their new beginning.

A crime of this magnitude needs so much more than what is offered here. It needs depth and insight. You can not get those things without interviews of those involved. That may take years before any of the siblings are ready to open up about what they lived through - if they ever are able to talk about it at all. I want to know why. I want to know what drove these parents to abuse their children so horribly that the adults were completely unrecognizable as such when they were first rescued. I want to know how these sorry excuses for parents could chain their children to their beds, beat them for whatever made-up infraction they thought of in the moment, deny medical care, deny dental care, deny a fucking bath or shower to their children. And on top of that, I want to know how and why those same fucked up parents can turn around, completely clean their children up, throw them in matching outfits, and take them to Disney, or to Vegas for vow renewals, or whatever other crazy shit they did to keep up the appearances of a normal, loving family. I would also like to know why no teacher reported anything suspicious when the oldest child was showing up to school obviously not clean, clothes that were dirty/didn't fit, etc. This poor sweet girl coming to school every day obviously needing help, and no one did anything? I have called child protective services for these exact reasons, when students have come to school consistently in dirty clothes, clearly not having had a bath in a while. I can't imagine failing a child by not doing so. And what about those in charge of overseeing families that home-school their children? It would appear as though California basically says, "Good luck, do what you want!" when a parent registers their "school". The dude literally listed himself as the principal of their "school" for years, and it appears no one ever checked up on him. Ever. This is not just a matter of these kids one time 'slipping through the cracks'. They were failed by every adult in their lives - including other family members - over and over again. The parents did a pretty great job for the most part in keeping other family members away, but shouldn't that have been a red-flag in and of itself? Or in those brief times when they did get to see the kids, was no one alarmed by the fact that they were no where near normal height/weight? Seriously. I get why the neighbors might not have realized anything was wrong, they talked of only seeing a couple kids at a time, never more than two it seems. The Turpins made the kids sleep during the day, though neighbors spoke of thinking they saw or heard kids out at night. Was that not another clue that something was not right? How difficult is it to make an anonymous tip to CPS?


I watched some videos from the trial and read articles as well, and I don't think we will ever get an answer to those 'why' questions, not from anyone but definitely not from David and Louise Turpin. Over and over all I read was how they loved their children, they hoped they had not hurt them, they were sorry if they did, and they hoped to see their children again some day. That is some grade-A detachment from reality, especially for two people who pleaded guilty to the charges to begin with. As I mentioned above, we did get background information on both sides of each family, and there was sexual abuse that occurred on the Louise's side. I still do not understand for the life of me though how that translates into what it became for her children. One of the daughter's also stated during sentencing that she saw how her father changed her mother and I have to wonder, how? The abuse began so early on, was it all only made worse because of their father? What does she mean by this?

Overall, I can't say that I recommend this book unless you are completely unfamiliar with the case and want all the information in one place instead of searching online for the myriad of articles, transcripts, videos, etc. In that case, check it out from the library. The Turpin children deserve better than this, because it does not do their story justice. And in time, if they choose to share that story, it should be their own decisions entirely.


  1. i saw this on id tv and it was a weird one. who knows what goes on in people's minds.
    sherry @ fundinmental

    1. I could not imagine, it is so awful. I hope they are in jail for the rest of their lives.

  2. I remember this horrific story. It sounds like this book is just an example of a writer trying to profit from sensationalizing someone's tragedy. In this case, the tragedy of all those children. No, thank you!

    1. That's really what it felt like. I was hoping for some insight, but it is hard to get the whole story when it is still being played out. Although, it is not like you could trust anything the parents might say in interviews, seeing as how they don't even truly acknowledge hurting their children. So disgusting.

  3. Wow, you are reading a lot of horrific stuff lately! I would have to take a break between some of these.

    1. Right?! I am trying to get caught up on reviews actually, with this one and the Watts family story. Both are so terrible, I needed a break before writing the reviews and they just came out close together. I could not do back to back horror stories involving kids either!


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