INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
LA TIMES BOOK PRIZE FINALIST
NBCC JOHN LEONARD PRIZE FINALIST
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES'S MOST NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2017
ONE OF THE WASHINGTON POST’S MOST NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2017
ONE OF NPR’S ‘GREAT READS’ OF 2017
A USA TODAY BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
AN AMAZON.COM BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A BUSINESS INSIDER BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
"Impossible to put down." —NPR
"A novel that readers will gulp down, gasping.” —The Washington Post
"The word 'masterpiece' has been cheapened by too many blurbs, but My Absolute Darling absolutely is one." —Stephen King
A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-year-old girl's heart-stopping fight for her own soul.
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.
Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving read that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Gabriel Tallent’s debut is dark, disturbing, and brilliantly written. Isolated in the California woods, teenager Julia “Turtle” Alveston lives a traumatic existence with her violent, manipulative father Martin. Tallent’s novel includes visceral, challenging scenes of sexual and psychological abuse, but the book’s two main characters are unforgettable—and hope emerges when Turtle turns the lessons Martin’s taught her against him. My Absolute Darling is a superbly tense psychological thriller.
Room meets Rambo in this emotionally fraught first novel. Fourteen-year old Julia "Turtle" Alveston is growing up in Northern California, near Mendocino, under the overprotective eye of her abusive father, Martin, who, for all intents and purposes treats her like they live in a two-person survivalist camp he teaches her how to shoot and hunt in the wild, and abuses and sexually molests her. Even though she goes to school, Turtle feels cut off from her fellow middle-school students until the day she meets Jacob, a high school student whose sudden appearance in her life forces her to question for the first time the way she's being raised. Martin adds a new member to the family, which forces Turtle to make a bold move to keep his history of abuse from repeating itself, leading to a suspenseful and bloody climax at a teenage house party. In Turtle, Tallent has crafted a resourceful and resilient character. Unfortunately, Martin is such an obvious psycho creep that readers will wonder why the characters he interacts with Turtle's teachers, a friend from the old days don't see through him. Jacob, too, in the dialogue the author puts in his mouth, doesn't sound like a real teenager. In the end, though, Turtle's story is harrowingly visceral.
cw: sexual abuse
I found this book on the 50¢ shelf at my local public library.
I don’t know why they do that — I guess getting rid of books no one reads. I picked it up, bought it, and moved on. I started reading it about a day later, and couldn’t put it down. The abusive relationship (if you could call it that) between Turtle and her Father was something so disturbing, so malignant, you can’t help but keep reading, praying it will be over soon.
It is a gorgeously written dark novel, chock full of delicious imagery, and I was quite fond of Talent’s writing style. But I couldn’t help but feel disgust at the way the author describes Turtle’s body parts. As a teenage girl myself, it filled me with disgust and despair — is this what grown men think of teenage girls and their bodies? I understand that given the nuance of the subject in relation to the novel that it made sense, but I have taken a star off for now it made me feel.
I loved this book, but I won’t be rereading it. Sometimes, books leave you shellshocked, and no matter how hard you want to stop thinking about it, you just can’t. That is how this book left me. I will forever be grateful that Turtle got the one thing all abuse survivors should be able to do: see their abusers in hell.
It’s alright. I had some trouble visualizing, and this wasn’t what I expected at first. But I did like it. Disappointed in the ending...
I genuinely liked portions of the book
Trigger warning, this book deals with a lot of scenes of all the types of abuse imaginable carried out by the father of our heroine. At times it evokes a visceral reaction and I had to take pauses. When I felt the plot shifting I was extremely excited but I also feel short changed. Despite the novel being a couple hundred pages, I feel I needed more. The book spends so much time writing candidly, openly, and the last third feels like a deadline may have been approaching somewhere and so we are left with some closure and more questions than we had in the first 2/3rds of the book. Still 3 stars because I was entertained nonetheless and it was a debut.