Review: The Family Next Door – The Heartbreaking Imprisonment of the Thirteen Turpin Siblings and Their Extraordinary Rescue by John Glatt

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★★½

St. Martin’s Press | 2019

Opening Imprisonment: Bologna and chains.

Main Crazy Parent: Probably the dude with the bowl cut.

Cult Theology: Be the Duggars…but crazier.


I heard about the Turpins when they first made international breaking news headlines back in 2018 (which honestly feels like 100 years ago, at this point,) but I obviously didn’t pay enough attention to the whole story because the level of insanity is just jaw-dropping once all the details are laid out, as John Glatt does for you in this true-crime novel.

I mean honestly, this is some fucked up shit.

I must have brushed it off as just another set of weird religious parents doing weird shit to their kids in the name of their self-tailored beliefs – that is one way to chalk it up – but when we get into the real details, this is a banana-sandwich story turned up to eleven. Spinal Tap, amen.

If you’re looking for a story on how Louise and David Turpin went from falling in love to popping out 13 kids who they would regularly beat and chain up to their beds, only freeing them to brush their teeth or use the bathroom, then this is a book for you.

But what this book won’t tell you is the why. Where the hell does the desire to do this kind of depraved shit to another living being – one you birthed from your body, no less – come from? There are some mentions of abuse running in the family, and even an obsession with becoming the next Duggars, but it’s circumstantial reasoning at best. I wanted to hear, out of their own mouths, what they thought they were doing.

Googling the why is difficult to do. I get a lot of statements about how they “didn’t mean” to abuse their children, how they “love” their children and are sorry, but I can’t find concrete reason as to why a 29-year-old woman had to be rescued from her gross parents’ house – described as being so dirty you couldn’t breathe – weighing only 82 lbs and having not showered for a year.

One of the Turpin children said in court that she can’t presume to understand “God’s will,” and I gotta say, this token atheist can’t believe how fucked up a statement that is. To actually believe a loving god had you abused for a couple of decades because….oh, just trust him! See? You’re really strong now and going to college, so obviously this was the best route to getting a normal life! Trust.

You want to tell me these kids aren’t going to suffer for the rest of their lives with mental ramifications of this upbringing?

dr evil whatever GIF

Sometimes religious excuses for things trip me out. This is one of those times. And it’s not good enough.

One of the Turpin kids read a statement in court that said she watched her father “change” her mother. And that’s something I’m interested in. Not that it would absolve Louise Turpin of her actions – like deciding between a rope or a chain for whipping because one of the kids had too much sugar – but I have to wonder if there is an element of spousal abuse that was overlooked because the child abuse was so grotesque.

What it all comes back to is why didn’t a single neighbour anywhere ever call the police? Why didn’t the education system catch the homeschooling lie, allowing the Turpins to just float away from any and all requirements and protocols? Why were family and friends not overwhelmingly alarmed at the appearance and intelligence level of the siblings?

The Turpins might be able to scrub their kids clean and take them to Disney Land to put on a performance that everything is just fine at home, but those kids were still 1/3 of the weight they were supposed to be and they could barely read. COME. ON.

Why did two people, who claim to love their children and want the best for them, feed them nothing but one meal a day of peanut butter, bologna or frozen burritos, and then only allow them one shower a year?

I want to know the psychological reasons behind David and Louise Turpin’s actions, but nothing is really ever presented. The author has a firm grasp on the timeline and the physical details, but the book lacked psychology and emotion.

While the story itself is insane, gripping, stunning and heart-wrenching, all of that was missing from the writing itself, skating by purely because the details allowed it to. It doesn’t provide the kind of insight I would want from a book like this, discussing a crime like this.

But, shout-out for not underplaying the bowl-cut family hairstyle at all, because damn, I looked that up too and it’s easily one of the most disturbing elements of this family saga.

Image result for david turpin"

Honestly, if you can read the news, you can get this book for free. It needed interviews, quotes and first-hand detail to really make it worth the reader’s time. Everything in here comes across as second-hand information and literally, the last half of the book is just court transcripts written out into digestible chunks.

Still, this could not be any more fucked up.

🔪🔪🔪


From New York Times bestselling true crime author John Glatt comes the devastating story of the Turpins: a seemingly normal family whose dark secrets would shock and captivate the world.

On January 14, 2018, a seventeen-year-old girl climbed out of the window of her Perris, California home and dialed 911 with shaking fingers. Struggling to stay calm, she told the operator that she and her 12 siblings–ranging in age from 2 to 29–were being abused by their parents. When the dispatcher asked for her address, the girl hesitated. “I’ve never been out,” she stammered.

To their family, neighbors, and online friends, Louise and David Turpin presented a picture of domestic bliss: dressing their thirteen children in matching outfits and buying them expensive gifts. But what police discovered when they entered the Turpin family home would eclipse the most shocking child abuse cases in history. For years, David and Louise had kept their children in increasing isolation, trapping them in a sinister world of torture, abuse, and near starvation.

In the first major account of the case, investigative journalist and author John Glatt delves into the disturbing details and recounts the bravery of the thirteen siblings in the face of unimaginable horror.

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