Book Review: My Absolute Darling

IMG_0832Title: My Absolute Darling
Author: Gabriel Tallent
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: August 29, 2017
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ / 5

From Riverhead: Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero—and in the process, becomes ours as well.

*I won this book from a giveaway and want to give a huge shoutout to Riverhead Books and Goodreads. All opinions are my own.

My Review: All the stars and all the praise for MY ABSOLUTE DARLING! I dove into this book with little knowledge of what it’s about and a lot of hype. And the buildup delivered! Tallent spent eight years honing this book and it’s so brazenly obvious in the carefully crafted characters, the gently progressive plot, the superb narrative and the captivating writing style – “…and how you make a fire by staring balefully down into the reflective bottom of an aluminum can until your immense force of will was concentrated and magnified by the parabolic mirror into a white-hot spark of pure Turtle rage that could light anything on fire, even the hearts of unwary high schoolers.”

Set in a small town along the northern coast of California, Turtle Alveston is a broken fourteen year old girl who is battered, abused and seemingly doesn’t stand a chance under the rearing of her misogynistic, controlling, sociopathic father. She’s feral, a loner and failure at school but she’s a survivor – a sharpshooter, hunter and wanderer. My first reaction to Turtle is to hug her and tell her everything will be okay and to let her be a kid.

Turtle gets a taste of freedom and meets two teenaged boys, Jacob and Brett who grow up with the creature comforts she’s gone without. From getting lost in the woods to narrowly escaping being washed away at sea and surviving on an island these kids have a bond. This is the turning point in the story where Turtle questions Martin’s so-called professed love for her and his obsession to have her for himself. She must choose between her freedom or the complicated and familiar life with her father. The decision Turtle makes is gripping and a testament of her strength both physically and emotionally and will make you love her even more, if that’s possible, but something no teenager should ever have to suffer.

This is not an easy story to take in. You can expect complex and disturbing themes that are not easily understood. At over 400 pages MY ABSOLUTE DARLING commands your full attention, it is not a fast page-turner. If you can get thru the tough stuff you will be rewarded with a beautiful work of literary fiction. As a debut novel Tallent proves he has a gift. Turtle’s story will stay with me for a long time. I highly recommend this book!