My Absolute Darling

1st February 2018

‘My Absolute Darling’- Gabriel Tallent

I’m not sure when I’ve read such a powerful, gripping, immersive and confronting debut.
‘My Absolute Darling’ is the story of Julia “Turtle” Alveston, a scrappy 14 year old living with her father in Mendocino, California, as she tries to carve out an existence for herself. Or, more accurately, as her father carves it out for her. Martin is an excruciating character, raising Turtle in a decrepit old house where the guns are better cared for than his daughter. He seems to be attempting an “us versus the world” mentality, teaching Turtle about weapons and survival skills, as though their future together depends on it. But it’s in her escape from a shockingly and viscerally abusive relationship where she’ll need it more than ever. Martin is not a protective father, and Turtle is not the light of his life: he is a monster, and her world view is so twisted she’s not even sure she wants to escape. When her grandfather, her sole ally, suddenly dies, Martin picks up a 10 year old runaway, and Turtle sees the possibility of making a friend outside for the first time in her life, she begins to understand that escape might be an option. Perhaps the only one.
Tallent writes such evocative description of place, I could almost smell the forest and the sea breeze as Turtle hones her skills. I had such a vivid picture in my mind and was completely drawn in, which packed an iron-fisted punch when the description turns to Martin’s abuse. This novel is not for the faint-hearted, but if you can make it through the first few chapters, you won’t be able to look away. In the best possible way, this is a book I don’t want to read again. Once is enough, and it’s shatteringly complete as it is.

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