Published by Riverhead Books
Publication date: August 29th 2017
What do you need to know about Turtle Alveston beyond her weird name? Well, she knows her way around almost every firearm there is and she eats raw eggs for breakfast. She is fourteen, but while she goes to school she doesn’t talk and is about to be held back from high school. She lives with her father in the woods of Mendocino. These simple facts might sound like that’s all there is to Turtle and she’s going down fast, but as Gabriel Tallent shows in My Absolute Darling, she is so much more than that.
From the very beginning of My Absolute Darling it’s clear something is not right with Turtle or her living situation. Her father, Martin, waits for the bus with her in the morning and makes her practice shooting playing cards out of his hand. He is quickly revealed as a misogynist survivalist—hence the remote house, guns, rudimentary food and a staggering knowledge of gender-based curse words. Martin is her entire life even though it seems as if he’s either trying to kill her or love her. The outside world plays only a little part in Turtle’s life, but when she comes across two town boys who are not put off by her silence and, in fact, think her outdoor survival skills are amazing, she starts to realize that maybe her father’s view of women, life, and the world are not necessarily true.
For the most part, Tallent’s timing in My Absolute Darling is impeccable. If the klieg lights of Turtle’s reality had hit too early the reader would have been blinded and disbelieving. Instead, he slowly turns up the lights until everything is revealed. By that time, both the reader and Turtle have the emotional resolve to deal with what is before them. Unfortunately, at that point, Tallent loses restraint and the novel goes from creepy and wrong to deadly and dangerous. When I read the book a month ago, I would have said the action became unbelievable, but after the latest events in the U.S. I’m not even sure what that means. The action in the last few chapters is disproportionate to the rest of the novel, but maybe it is completely possible. The only difference is, in the real world I have to accept things as having no explanation and in my fiction I can still draw a line. My Absolute Darling is a challenging novel worth reading, much like Our Endless, Numbered Days and Gather the Daughters, but the culmination of the drama lost me.
Sarah's Book Shelves says
Wow -I’m surprised this even got 3 stars from you! For some reason I expected you to hate it. I DNF’d.
It reminded me of the books I listed in the review and All the Ugly- just because of Turtle. I wanted to know what happened to her. I also liked Tallent’s writing. It was a pretty awful premise, though.
I have been waiting anxiously to get to this one for so long and just cracked the cover last night. So I can’t read your review, but came to see your star rating, which doesn’t bode too well. I’ve seen disparate reviews, but it seemed in my wheelhouse. We shall see!
Susie | Novel Visits says
I had looked forward to this one so much, but then didn’t get approved for an ARC. I just read the sample, but couldn’t tell whether I wanted to read more or not. Based on your thoughts, I don’t think I’ll try to read it right now. At the moment, I don’t want to read any books more that I know I’ll struggle through!
No! Stick with The Rules of Magic! I think it is what everyone needs right now.
I’m scared to even pick this book up. All I hope is that Turtle gets the hell out of there. I’m not too keen on creepy books –even History of Wolves became sort of icky as well. Still I guess I’m glad I read it. hmm
Well, hell. I came to report that after starting and reading the first 75 pages or so I decided to give up. I didn’t do so lightly. I’ve been looking forward to this book for a long time. It wasn’t even the subject matter per se, dark stuff is kind of my jam (whatever that might say about me). I just found it rather boring. If it had been 300 pages I would have kept going, but 400+? Gotta knock my socks off or at least engage me before I hit page 75. I am not a fan of long scene descriptors, and Tallent’s didn’t interest me. If the prose had been leaner I might have engaged more. But now that I’ve come back and read your review I almost feel like plugging back in. Damn it.
Plenty of people felt he went too heavy on the adjectives, but I liked his writing.
And I get your jam, dark sister.
I know you do! I’m not sure why it didn’t grab me. Maybe just the wrong time for it. I’ll come back to it, I hate not finishing things that I had such great anticipation for.