Wow! My Absolute Darling is literary fiction at its finest! This vividly written debut is rich in language with full descriptive prose and incredibly complex characters. Turtle, a motherless teenager living with her reclusive and resourceful survivalist dad, has an unusual existence. Some of her days begin with raw eggs and a sip of beer before she goes on the bus to middle school. With little interaction amongst her classmates and not much interest in academics, her attendance is haphazard. Not the typical northern California fourteen-year-old, she spends lots of time wandering around alone outside in nature and is often busy cleaning her gun. Her large and physically imposing father, Martin, provides sparse supervision and motivation, yet he is all she has, and she says she loves him. Martin loves her, teaches her everything he knows about surviving in this crazy world, and yet they have an unspoken dirty little secret and there is a dark cloud of hatred between them.
The tension between Martin and Turtle escalates as the story progresses, with the death of Grandpa, the new boy in Turtle’s life and Turtle’s journey into adulthood. When Martin brings home a young girl to live with them, Turtle sees the evil in Martin more clearly, her maturity coinciding with increasing will and courage to plan her escape. The damage Martin has inflicted on Turtle’s self image is seemingly unsurmountable, her self hatred is overwhelming and she constantly battles inner conflict, yet in other ways he taught her survival skills, and she must conjure up the strength to do what she needs to escape.
Emotionally painful and exhausting to read, I needed to put the book down at the end of each chapter to absorb, contemplate and recover; then I was immediately compelled to pick it right back up again to continue. It is crazy to say I loved a book with such distasteful subject matter, but the way author Gabriel Tallent developed his characters and moved me with his writing is a testament to the power of his words. I highly recommend My Absolute Darling for anybody who loves a powerful read.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Gabriel Tallent has spent a lot of free time backpacking, reading Greek tragedies, and figuring out Moby Dick. He received his BA from Willamette University and has had his stories published in Narrative and the St. Petersburg Review.