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

Book review of the The Family Next Door by John Glatt. Turpin Family.

The Family Next Door: A Review of John Glatt’s Book About the Turpin Family

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that my interest is piqued every time I see a story about a “large homeschooling family” that is accused of child abuse. The story of the Turpin family caught my eye in particular because they had thirteen children which are large, even in large family circles.

Book review of the The Family Next Door by John Glatt. Turpin Family.

I purchased the book The Family Next Door myself and was given no compensation for this review. This review contains Amazon affiliate links.

The Turpin’s House of Horrors

Like many people, I read the first few articles that came out about the House of Horrors. There wasn’t a whole lot of information, so it quickly faded from my mind. 

I recently discovered writer John Glatt (you might remember my review of My Sweet Angel) and was excited to see he had written a book about the Turpin family.

*And incidentally, his book, The Perfect Father, about Chris Watts is coming out in July and I definitely plan on reading that as well.

The story of the Turpins has been confusing from the beginning. One reason is that so much of the information available is conflicting and this was true in the book as well.

Full of Inconsistencies 

  • While every article I’ve read and Glatt’s book talks about how isolated the kids were, several of them had cell phones and a couple even had smartphones. 
  • The 17-year-old who escaped and called for help had a YouTube channel.
  • The kids say they only have a first-grade education, yet they can read and write. One of the older boys was even taking college classes.
  • When they were finally freed and in the hospital, the book says, the kids got their very first pair of shoes…but photos of them in Vegas and Disneyland clearly show them wearing shoes.
  • Everything I’ve read also says they lacked simple life skills and didn’t understand how the world worked because they were so isolated…yet they took the kids to Disneyland and Vegas more than once, several went shopping with the mom, and at least one son was attending college.

I am not blaming Glatt for the inconsistencies, I have seen them in the news articles I have read as well. It just adds to the mystery of this family and tells me know one is quite sure what happened with this family. Probably not even the kids themselves.

Why Did the Turpins Continue to Have Children?

This part of the story is most confusing to me personally. They were obviously abusing and neglecting the children. The older children were starving, sick, and many of them were chained to beds. If you are that overwhelmed, why would you continue to have children? I just can’t wrap my head around this part.

More Children for Fame?

Some people (including members of the Turpin’s family) have speculated that they were trying to get their own reality TV show like the Duggars. This makes absolutely no sense to me, since they were chaining kids to beds, the house was full of filth and feces, kids didn’t bathe or get fed on a regular basis, etc. I don’t believe these two were so far removed from reality that they believed someone could come into their home and find it acceptable. 

Their House Was Full of Toys

This is mentioned in the book and can be seen in photos online. Several of the children’s bedrooms were full of toys…many of them brand new in unopened packages. WHY would you buy toys for your kids, bring them home, then just leave them strewn all over, unplayed with?

I don’t know…

The Parents Moved Out Leaving the Older Siblings in Charge

At one point in time, they moved a couple of hours away for nearly four years! Louise and David Turpin took the youngest children and moved to a new house. They would go back every two weeks or so with food and check on things. Despite this, no one went for help. I have read enough True Crime to know all about Stockholm Syndrome, but it is still hard to understand how these parents could have so much control over these kids (and adults) even when they were gone for weeks at a time. 

Conclusion

This book is well-written and I certainly learned some new details about the family and how their life and marriage began. I definitely recommend but in the end, I am left with even more questions than I started with.

If you are interested in True Crime I highly recommend checking out John Glatt’s books.

3 Comments

  1. Heather Mills Schwarzen

    I’ve been flummoxed by the inconsistencies as well! Did things suddenly take a horrific turn? Was there some deterioration in conditions that went beyond their past experiences? I doubt we will ever know.

  2. Erin

    I have a son who is with us through foster care. He came into care at 9 years old. Things were pretty bad. And yet, he just wants to go back to it. He can’t see the inconsistency between what he is living now and what he was living then. He just wants to be with his parents.
    Things aren’t static. Maybe things were always a bit not great. But it was their normal. Maybe the older ones stayed for the sake of the younger ones. Maybe it took a turn for the much much worse. Who knows. It could be a bit like the frog in the pot of water – it just kept heating up but wasn’t detected as being as abnormal as it was til it got really really bad. Life is rarely as black and white as fiction.

  3. Renee

    This is so true. And I imagine we will never know what went on, why the older kids stayed, what the parents were thinking, etc…

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