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At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall. She knows how to snare a rabbit, sharpen a blade and splint a bone. She knows that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. But she doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; why the line between love and pain can At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall. She knows how to snare a rabbit, sharpen a blade and splint a bone. She knows that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. But she doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see. Or why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done. Sometimes the people you’re supposed to trust are the ones who do most harm. And what you’ve been taught to fear is the very thing that will save you…


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At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall. She knows how to snare a rabbit, sharpen a blade and splint a bone. She knows that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. But she doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; why the line between love and pain can At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall. She knows how to snare a rabbit, sharpen a blade and splint a bone. She knows that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world and he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. But she doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see. Or why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done. Sometimes the people you’re supposed to trust are the ones who do most harm. And what you’ve been taught to fear is the very thing that will save you…

30 review for My Absolute Darling

  1. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Given all the glowing reviews and buzz surrounding My Absolute Darling, I really wanted to like this book. But from the first chapter, this book did not grab me. And I guess I am the anomaly, given how much people are rhapsodizing about this novel, which is fine, not every book is for every reader. So, if you think you might like this book, please do check it out! For certain, this book is readable in that I read it in a few hours. I kept hoping that the amazingness would suddenly appear to me a Given all the glowing reviews and buzz surrounding My Absolute Darling, I really wanted to like this book. But from the first chapter, this book did not grab me. And I guess I am the anomaly, given how much people are rhapsodizing about this novel, which is fine, not every book is for every reader. So, if you think you might like this book, please do check it out! For certain, this book is readable in that I read it in a few hours. I kept hoping that the amazingness would suddenly appear to me and all the pieces would fall into place. Alas. Nothing I say here is meant to be disrespectful to the writer. Writing books takes time and effort and this writer has put in the work and so none of this rises out of ill will. I am actually not at all familiar with the writer. I also don’t write on Goodreads for the writer. Writers should not read Goodreads reviews of their own work. Goodreads is for readers and it is as a reader I offer these thoughts. Given how this book is about trauma and violence, I wanted to love it (for lack of a better word). The overall premise is well in my writing AND reading wheelhouse and the kind of story I tend to gravitate to. But… there was a lot of darkness and grittiness and I didn’t feel especially moved by any of it. It was all so clinically brutal. I should have wanted to cry but I just felt… not much of anything. I did not believe the violence. And I surely did not believe Turtle as a young woman dealing with such a horrifying circumstance. With respect, it felt like a man guessing at how a young woman in her situation would feel. It was unbelievable and not in a good way. The sexual violence was written, all too often, with an uncomfortable amount of romance which is to say if you forgot who the characters were, you’d think this was just a fucked up love story between two un-related grown folks and not, you know, a horrifying tale of incest. I DO understand what the writer was going for, trying to convey the conflict Turtle felt, the push and pull of a girl who is living in an untenable situation she has no choice in, being drawn to her father and repulsed by his abuse, being human and having physical reactions to things she is resistant to and not actively consenting to. But… the approach here doesn’t work at all. Though Martin sees his daughter as a lover, there should be… more clarity that Turtle, however conflicted and fraught she finds the situation, does not see herself as her father’s lover. I’m not articulating my thought well here. There’s just a way to go about this and I did not like the way it was handled here. I wanted more interiority from Turtle. The third person narration was a curious choice and I felt so much distance from Turtle and not in a way that felt organic to what I see as the novel’s ambitions. And Turtle SHOULD be the kind of narrator that becomes canon—tough, interesting, smart, fucked up. But because we don’t have the interiority she deserves, the potential of her character is never realized. Several scenes were displays of unbridled sadism and again, I get why, and I am not judging the content. Lord knows, I am not afraid of violence in fiction. I simply question the lack of genuine purpose for that content. The excess of description was really off putting. Like, we get it—it’s water, it’s the woods, it’s a sparsely decorated house. Calm! Down! With! The! Adjectives! And I am fine with descriptive writing but more often than not the prose offered an excess of description that really compromised the pacing. And despite all the description, it was challenging to get a real sense of place. I just started to dread turning the page for fear there would be more description, more “look what I can do with words!” which is not… ideal. And just… so much of the description did not make sense. It was just word soup. There is a baffling moment where Turtle’s pussy is described as, “trim and compact as an anemone bunkered down" but in the most bizarre way. WHY IS THIS HERE? Also, every time the word “pussy” appears it just… it’s weird. And then toward the end, Tallent switches it to cunt. But it’s just as jarring. And when we first meet Turtle she is “coltish” and also her hips are “wide but slender.” Like… dude, pick one. And of course, you know the next line is going to be that she is beautiful but in a surprising way right? Sure enough, she is described as “an ugly face she knows, but an unusual one.” Sigh. Of course. Here is the whole description: "She is tall for fourteen, coltishly built, with long legs and arms, wide but slender hips and shoulders, her neck long and corded. Her eyes are her most striking feature, blue, almond-shaped in a face that is too lean, with wide, sharp cheekbones, and her crooked, toothy mouth—an ugly face, she knows, and an unusual one." The description makes her sound like a Star Trek alien. She gets her period and just dips her fingers in her pussy to feel her “menarche” and then gives it a lil taste and fine, maybe this would happen, but… sigh. Why? And like, these are the things that kept jumping out, not like the actually important stuff. The obsession with guns was disproportionate to the role of guns in the overall narrative. There were guns everywhere all the time, just out in the open. I live in an an open carry state and I was still like… what is happening???? And several times, I thought, if Turtle cleans that gun one more time, I’m going to flip my coffee table. There were so many plot threads that felt abandoned and incomplete. All that energy spent on description might have been better spent on character development and backstory. We know Martin is a sadistic nutcase but that’s it. He says he hates his father but his father comes across as a reasonably decent guy. How does he make money? How does he own such valuable land? What really happened to Turtle’s mother? How on EARTH has he not lost custody of Turtle yet? This one character, Brett’s mother shows up, and turns out, she was best friends with Turtle’s mom, and nothing comes of this. Like, she stops by the house once and that’s that. WHY SWAY? The teenagers were so very precocious and hyper verbal and mostly free to roam the world with few discernible problems. It was like Dawson’s Creek but in Mendocino. The one part that works is the epilogue, of sorts, where we see Turtle in the after of everything that transpires. This part is, of course, like only ten pages. I don’t know. It’s me, I guess, not the book.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Emily May

    “The truth of you, if it is there at all, exists beyond an unbridgeable and irreducible epistemological gap.” Wow, I 100% know what people mean when they say they felt like they read a completely different book from everyone else. The critics have been loving My Absolute Darling. All the reviews appearing in my feed have been singing its praises. Stephen King gave it the thumbs up. And yet, I found this painfully awful. On multiple levels. Where do I even begin? I could start with what I suppo “The truth of you, if it is there at all, exists beyond an unbridgeable and irreducible epistemological gap.” Wow, I 100% know what people mean when they say they felt like they read a completely different book from everyone else. The critics have been loving My Absolute Darling. All the reviews appearing in my feed have been singing its praises. Stephen King gave it the thumbs up. And yet, I found this painfully awful. On multiple levels. Where do I even begin? I could start with what I suppose is the biggest issue - the portrayal of abuse. My Absolute Darling is about a girl who calls herself Turtle, who lives out in the woods of Northern California with her abusive father, Martin. As we sit through disturbing scenes of physical and sexual abuse, the question we are called to ask is if, and how, Turtle can ever escape her father. Look, I don't have a problem with dark, disturbing and graphic books. I think stories that push boundaries and aren't afraid to "go there" can be extremely important. But I found this a crass tale, full of gratuitous detail and none of the sensitivity the subject matter required. I think the author sexualises Turtle from the start. Not so much because she seemed to enjoy the rape (this is an unfortunate, grotesque, but often true aspect of sexual abuse) but because of the emphasis put on the descriptions of her body and particularly some of the language choices, such as “engorged pussy”. This does not come from dialogue or a first person narrative, but from an omniscient narrator who chooses to describe an adolescent's body in this way. This is a TEENAGE GIRL that is being RAPED BY HER FATHER. Why is the author dragging out the scenes of abuse in gratuitous detail, exploiting Turtle’s pain, fear and misplaced desire in what reads like a sadistic sexual fantasy? Perhaps it was not the author’s intention, but it felt like deliberate titillation for readers who enjoy these sorts of disturbing thrills. Turtle’s character and personhood feel totally eclipsed by the graphic details of the sexual abuse her body receives. But books like these are often polarizing. I recall thinking All the Ugly and Wonderful Things was a great book, though I can easily see why it would elicit a negative reaction. What is far more surprising is the praise this book has received for its writing. As the story progresses, it develops into something of a coming-of-age survival story with Turtle meeting fellow teens, Jacob and Brett, and going on wilderness adventures (no wonder Stephen King likes this book, he already wrote Stand By Me) and the dialogue is horrendous. Nobody in this book talks like a real person. You have Martin who goes on weird, lengthy philosophical rants (see opening quote) that made me roll my eyes, Turtle who thinks in a stream of "fucker"s and "motherfucker"s, and Jacob and Brett who make me wonder if the author actually knows ANY teenagers. By far the most painful chapters are those where Jacob and Brett go on and on for pages, speaking like this: “This cheese is sick. I mean, fucking dank, is all. I know you don’t believe, but truth, I mean truth.” I have never heard so many "dude"s and "sick"s and "like"s. At its best, it was laughable; at its worst, insufferable. The writing just didn't appeal to me at all. An abuse of nature adjectives and vivid descriptions of northern California enable readers to call this “literary fiction”, but giving everything a pretty adjective (or five) isn't my idea of good writing. And I was so so tired of the boring obsession with guns that seemed to pop up every chapter. To me, this is sensationalist, exploitative fiction, trussed-up just enough that it can be called "deep" and "artistic". Even the YA book Living Dead Girl seemed like a deeper version of the same story to me - especially when (view spoiler)[Martin brings home another girl (hide spoiler)] . But everyone else seems to like it so what do I know? Blog | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Masterson

    Bam! All the freaking stars!!! Why do we read? I'm serious? Why? Because books like these exist! "My Absolute Darling" in my humble opinion is a modern masterpiece! An absolute, all consuming, beautifully written work of art! I loved it so much! I'm completely exhausted. This book was all consuming. I wanted to save Turtle from her monster father all throughout this book. I wanted her to run and get help when she could have. Most of this novel is dark and disturbing but there are glimmers of joy, Bam! All the freaking stars!!! Why do we read? I'm serious? Why? Because books like these exist! "My Absolute Darling" in my humble opinion is a modern masterpiece! An absolute, all consuming, beautifully written work of art! I loved it so much! I'm completely exhausted. This book was all consuming. I wanted to save Turtle from her monster father all throughout this book. I wanted her to run and get help when she could have. Most of this novel is dark and disturbing but there are glimmers of joy, especially when Turtle is with Jacob. The writing is some of the finest I've ever come across in modern literature, and I dare say it actually got me out of the book rut I was in. There will be much debate about this book to come. Some will absolutely love this novel and others will be absolutely disgusted by the scenes that have graphic abuse of a minor and the language Gabriel Tallent uses to convey them. I do feel these scenes were appropriate because they show the depravity of Turtle's father, Martin. I want to put this out there, if this is a made into a movie I think Michael Shannon should play Martin. I think he would be perfect. I listened to the audio version. The beginning is shaky because the narrator has a husky voice but within the first hour she had me hooked and did a great job with all of the characters voices. Highly recommended for literary fiction fans with an err on the side of caution for people with triggers.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paromjit

    Warning: extreme and disturbing material! This is a psychologically chilling, dark and disturbing novel set in remote Mendocino, California, charting the dysfunctional, an understatement, relationship between 14 year old Turtle (Julia) and her end of the world believer, armed to the teeth, survivalist father, Martin, who has stockpiled dried food that will last 3 years. This book has echoes of Helena and Jacob Holbrook's relationship in The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne, although in compa Warning: extreme and disturbing material! This is a psychologically chilling, dark and disturbing novel set in remote Mendocino, California, charting the dysfunctional, an understatement, relationship between 14 year old Turtle (Julia) and her end of the world believer, armed to the teeth, survivalist father, Martin, who has stockpiled dried food that will last 3 years. This book has echoes of Helena and Jacob Holbrook's relationship in The Marsh King's Daughter by Karen Dionne, although in comparison to this, that is a picnic in the park. Turtle is a wild child, a daddy's girl, and never happier than when roaming the wild coastal landscape. She is a silent child, lacking friends, and treats with contempt other girls and women, echoing the heartfelt misogyny of her ever loving father. Every morning she wakes up, slings a can of beer to Martin and cracks eggs into her mouth, prior to leaving for school, where she is visibly struggling. Martin is Turtle's world, she is kibble, his absolute darling, his reason for living. Turtle's entire identity is predicated upon Martin's perceptions and attitudes, she knows no other world. This is an intimate character study with a narrative related from Turtle's perspective. Martin is a pathologically sick, brutal and sadistic father, prone to terrorising and belittling Turtle, and sexually abusing her. He is clever, volatile, manipulative, emotionally damaged and obsessed with absolute control over his daughter. Turtle is his possession, anyone that challenges that is in grave danger, none more so than Turtle herself. She routinely practices her shooting with her various guns and commits to the daily cleaning of her guns. However, chinks begin to appear in Turtle's armour as she begins to become aware that others live different lives, with more integrity and decency, and that it is possible for her to have the potential to make friends and relationships that challenge the way she and her father live. Turtle has a primal need for a separate identity from her father, one that has her taking risks as she reaches for alternative choices but one which drives Martin wild with fear, hatred and cruelty. Turtle finds her intentions undone when she meets and befriends Jacob and Brett, mesmerised by their literary and philosophical banter, and taken aback by their respect, attention, and the high value they place on her. Anna, her teacher, eventually manages to connect with Turtle sufficiently for Turtle to break the block preventing her from educationally moving on, as she demonstrates her personal understanding of exacerbate and recalcitrant . Brett and Jacob's family connect with and come to care for Turtle. However, these developments bring their stresses, strains and challenges for Turtle. Her unsettled psyche is still caught up with her unconditional love for Martin, which makes moving on excruciatingly painful. Martin punishes Turtle brutally for her infractions and threatens her friends. Full of shame, self hatred, yet determined to keep her friends safe, Turtle makes a devil's bargain to sacrifice herself for her friends and for her father. A bargain that Turtle will break, not for her own safety and sanity but for another, after which all hell breaks loose. This is a viscerally atmospheric and compelling novel from Gabriel Tallent, taking on the desperately disturbing territory of Martin and Turtle's relationship, a veritable terrifying can of worms. The prose is vital and vibrant, with exquisite descriptions of the wild flora and fauna of the coast. The characters are nuanced and complex, Martin is charming, and with enough self awareness to see the monster that he has become, yet he just does not have the capacity to act on this for change. The trigger for change lies in his beloved kibble, Turtle, but Martin is not going to give up without the fight of his life. It is not easy for Turtle to do the right thing and break the only world she knows, this psychological portrayal feels authentic, change comes gradually, until Turtle reaches the point where she must act, whatever the outcome. This is a raw, intelligent and moving novel that I will not forget. It is undoubtedly a challenging read that I highly recommend. Many thanks to HarperCollins 4th Estate for an ARC.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Update $1.99 Kindle special!!!!! Mixed reviews—I loved it. The setting of this story is what first interested me in this novel....having grown up in the San Francisco bay area. The Northern California coast - Mendocino- is one of the natural wonders in the world. It's surrounded by secluded cliff side beaches, bird-rich estuaries, rivers, hiking trails, canyons, waterfalls, giant redwoods, the famous Pygmy Forests of pine and cypress, and it's an unincorporated community. In the late 60's and 70' Update $1.99 Kindle special!!!!! Mixed reviews—I loved it. The setting of this story is what first interested me in this novel....having grown up in the San Francisco bay area. The Northern California coast - Mendocino- is one of the natural wonders in the world. It's surrounded by secluded cliff side beaches, bird-rich estuaries, rivers, hiking trails, canyons, waterfalls, giant redwoods, the famous Pygmy Forests of pine and cypress, and it's an unincorporated community. In the late 60's and 70's, Mendocino became the counter culture Community for intentional living with principles such as nonviolence and respect. Communes were popping up like poppies. Berries grew in abundance because the ground was so acid. Today - Mendocino, is not only a picturesque place - but it's become an affluent community - a tourist get-a-way spot--a leap from the hippie days when rural poverty- unemployment- starving artist- plumbing problems - roofing and electrical problems - were more common living conditions. At the start of "My Absolute Darling", it's clear by the descriptions--that Author Gabriel Tallent wasn't painting us a rosy picture of Turtle's home life --no matter how gorgeous the beach was. The old house up on the hill…with peeling white paint, boarded windows, an unfinished back deck, grainy redwood kitchen counters, and *Turtle*, 14 years old, has been sleeping on a plywood bed, with an army surplus bag pulled over her since she was 6 years old. She goes to sleep at night listening to rats eating off the dirty dishes in the kitchen. She wakes up in the mornings- going into that kitchen - getting a can of beer to toss to her dad grabs eggs for herself that she cracks right into her mouth. Shabby physical conditions was the least of Turtle's problems. Grandpa Daniel knew it was no way for his son, Martin, to raise a girl, and was definitely more than concerned - and at 'first' not aware of 'how' bad things were --but by the time he did discover 'bruises' on Turtle's body, it was too late to make permanent influential power.....but not for the lack of trying. Martin did whatever he damned pleased. MARTIN WAS NOT A WELL MAN BY ANY STANDARDS WHAT-SO-EVER!!! Here is a sample - mild - normal- type dialogue between Martin and Turtle --- [this scene takes place after Martin discovers Grandpa gave Turtle, his "Kibble", a knife]....The reader knows Martin feels jealous and threatened- because Martin 'must' be #1 in her life. Martin owns her - he 'demands' she love only him.... ( in the way a psychopath sadistic manipulative abusive father would do).... but Martin knows Turtle is upset with him for grabbing the knife away from her and breaking it... and DADDY WANTS TO MAKE IT BETTER FOR HIS DARLING. "Forget it, Turtle says. It doesn't matter. "It does matter. You're mad about it, my love. I'll make it good. "No, I don't care', she says "Kibble, he says, give me the knife, I'm not going to have you pissed at me because that knife is as fragile as a fucking toy. I made a mistake, and I can set that knife up just like you want it, good as new". "Something you have to care for". "Well, that's funny, because, Martin says, I thought a knife was supposed to care of you. I thought that was the point". As I was reading throughout this story --there are so many situations where we see how the 'daddy' manipulates Turtle's thoughts - and is so clever at it. What Martin did next with the knife boggled my mind. He turned Turtle's thinking around- ( while still controlling and abusive) - to where she surrendered inward -- in the same way a turtle retreats it's head into its shell. My god, we see -- and understand - but wish we could change things --( like Turtle's teacher Anna so wanted to do)--how kids who come from families with an abusive parent - physically - emotionally - sexually- and spiritually....STILL LOVE THEM and want to protect the parent who is NOT PROTECTING them. Yes, Turtle hated him on some level too -but most of her life - she just hated herself. The author did give us a very raw and real picture --almost a formula - of what happens with children who are raised day in and day out with the type of father Martin was to her I kept thinking - Turtle is 14... rebellious years... isn't she going to fight back - discover her strong inner identity separate from her father? Where is her voice? Her sense of self worth? And then I read this --- "I need that hardness in you. I need you to be hard on me, because I am no good for myself, and you make me do what I want to do but cannot do for myself; but still – – you are sometimes not careful; there is something in you, something less than careful, something almost – – I don't know, I am not sure, but I know it's there." Geeeee....OMG..... I've been typing faster than the speed of light and I just realize this is not a short abbreviated review. I hope my bones forgive me---but without being a part of a book discussion--this is the type of book where my mind has thoughts all over the place. In fact --there were many times when I was reading this novel, I was sitting on the spin bike we have here at the house, and I started reading out loud instead of to myself---because as disturbing as this book is there are some of the most gorgeous sentences.... and when I would read them out loud ..... thank goodness nobody was home because it would've been a little bit embarrassing....but the visuals of Turtle walking barefoot for miles ( shoes?- oh my!), through the huckleberries and the Rhododendrum's ---were lovely -- but then Turtle - our wild nature girl would have me shaking my head...... and once again I would be aware of the authors writing. I was sizzling with mixtures of emotions often - often - often!!! Here's another small excerpt where I have ying/yang thoughts: "The morning turns to early afternoon, blue cottony, flat-bottomed clouds towing shadows across the forested slopes. A barren clay promontory, the road makes a turn and descends into the eastern most of two gulches, and here a clay pullout overlooks the valley. Long dried ruts. An old VW bus with its tires riding to the ground, ceanothus growing up against the driver's-side quarter panel". Turtle slits rabbits, and scoops their guts with ease in the same way other teenagers might bake cookies. She uses a gun and a knife with the same ease that other young teenage girls do a cell phone. Her survival skills were very impressive when she first meets Brett and Jacob out in the forest --Brett with a can of EASY CHEESE. The boys lost in the redwoods..... and it started raining and lightning and if it wasn't for Turtle's help -they would have suffered much more .... They considered her a Ninja! Things become much more complicated and intense - once Turtle becomes friends with the boys. Plus, Anna, Turtle's teacher is starting to prove herself trustworthy in Turtle's eyes, too -- but Turtle's mind is split .... loyalty to her dad or not ... We know how her dad feels.... Martin says: "How big you're getting. How strong. My absolute darling my absolute darling". "Yes". she says. "Just mine?" "Just yours", she says, and he crashes the side of his face against her hips, looks up at her, his arms encircled the small of her back. "You promise?" he says "I promise", she says "No one else's?" "No one else's, she says. JUST WAIT.... THINGS COME UNDONE! -Like it or hate it - absolutely disturbing- this won't be a novel a reader will forget. Turtle --( her real name is Julie) --is a very interesting character. Even the 'name' chosen could not have been a pick of a straw. When it comes to animal symbolism, the turtle is a great example of persistence, determination, endurance, and the turtle is a survivor. NOTE: The sexual abuse narrative is the most graphic - ghastly and atrocious that I've ever come across in any fiction novel.....the kind that leaves you with a pit in your belly--readers must be warned.....but I felt it was worth reading because looking at human behavior--the horrifying sides of life --that take place in a person's home - teaches us compassion at a whole deeper level. That annoying spirited person who bugs the heck out of us?.....maybe we have no idea at all what they grew up with.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Rebbie

    There are people who are falsely claiming that those of us who are giving this book a high rating are doing so because we love that it is sordid, incestuous, exploitative, etc. These false accusations are offensive and say more about the individual and their low view of women than it does about anyone else. Here's the truth: If anything, the book is getting high ratings despite its disturbing content. For proof of this, read any number of the excellent reviews for this book. Also, it's been said There are people who are falsely claiming that those of us who are giving this book a high rating are doing so because we love that it is sordid, incestuous, exploitative, etc. These false accusations are offensive and say more about the individual and their low view of women than it does about anyone else. Here's the truth: If anything, the book is getting high ratings despite its disturbing content. For proof of this, read any number of the excellent reviews for this book. Also, it's been said that "real victims" don't act the way Turtle does. This is also deeply offensive. There IS NO set standard for a victim's reaction, especially while abuse is presently happening. One size does not fit all. The one thing that truly bothers me is hard to quantify here, but it has to do with the way it's written. It almost feels as if there's a deliberate attempt to stir adrenaline in the reader or even to reap enjoyment from reading about the graphic sexual abuse. I've seen this in some horror movies as well, where the creator appears to want the viewer to enjoy what they're seeing... If I had to guess I'd say that this is the root cause of why so many of us feel uncomfortable, unsettled, or downright disturbed with this book. It isn't the story line per se, but the way that it's presented to the reader.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Crumb

    Disturbing, Riveting, and Impossible To Put Down Easiest five stars I've given all year. This book will take your breath away. Turtle and her father live on the Northern California Coast. They have a close relationship.. perhaps too close. As Turtle grows and matures she suddenly realizes that the walls are closing in around her and she senses a rising urgency for freedom. However, will her father ever allow that? Gabriel Tallent is an absolute TALENT (every pun intended). His writing is flawless an Disturbing, Riveting, and Impossible To Put Down Easiest five stars I've given all year. This book will take your breath away. Turtle and her father live on the Northern California Coast. They have a close relationship.. perhaps too close. As Turtle grows and matures she suddenly realizes that the walls are closing in around her and she senses a rising urgency for freedom. However, will her father ever allow that? Gabriel Tallent is an absolute TALENT (every pun intended). His writing is flawless and the tale he weaves is deliciously disturbing. I'm never one to back away from a book that has the potential to make me slightly uncomfortable. And this one didn't just make me uneasy.. it formed a knot of fear in the pit of my stomach. The tension is palpable throughout this story fraught with danger, mystery, and intrigue. I found myself rooting for Turtle, an unlikely heroine. However, exactly what was I rooting for? I never was sure. This novel will definitely test your faith in humanity. It begs certain questions of you that you might be unprepared for. With all that being said, you absolutely must read My Absolute Darling. It is expertly written and will push you as a reader. I'm always for that! Important Trigger Warning: While this story pushed my limits as a reader and I found it fascinating, it certainly is NOT for everyone. This book contains sexual aggression toward a young female, incestuous relations, and rape. Thank you to Riverhead Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a honest review

  8. 4 out of 5

    Julie

    My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent is a 2017 Riverhead Books publication. Very dark and disturbing, but one of the most noteworthy novels I have read this year! Despite some very stellar reviews, I waffled back and forth, unable to decide if really wanted to tackle this one, but thanks to my GR friend, Jennifer Masterson’s review, I took the plunge. I knew going in this story was controversial and perhaps not for everyone. Yet, I still was not emotionally prepared for the intensity of the nov My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent is a 2017 Riverhead Books publication. Very dark and disturbing, but one of the most noteworthy novels I have read this year! Despite some very stellar reviews, I waffled back and forth, unable to decide if really wanted to tackle this one, but thanks to my GR friend, Jennifer Masterson’s review, I took the plunge. I knew going in this story was controversial and perhaps not for everyone. Yet, I still was not emotionally prepared for the intensity of the novel and the almost unbearable passages I had to endure. It is one of those stories I had to read in small doses, but one I couldn’t put down for too long. For those who have read ‘The Marsh King’s Daughter’ you can’t help but notice some similarities and maybe to some extent, ‘The Seven Lives of Samuel Hawley’, but while each of those novels were remarkable in their own right, this novel takes those concepts into an entirely new realm. On the surface, Turtle’s upbringing may seem merely unorthodox, to some. She attends school, but often runs wild. Her father, a hardcore survivalist, is inconsistent about his daughter's education, but is absolutely rigid about the lessons in survival he tutors her in. But, if anyone is looking close enough, they will see much more going on. Once the reader is allowed to witness the training Turtle's father puts such a premium on, the sense of dread doesn’t slowly creep up on you, it hits you right between the eyes. It's immediate, violent, extreme, and relentless. But, while Turtle is aware enough on some level that she is different from the other students in school, and she dutifully covers up her bizarre upbringing. ‘Turtle wonders if there are things that she is blind to that other people see, and what those things might be.’ She accepts the confines of her life, copes with her father as best she can, convinced he loves her, until she meets Jacob, purely by chance. The development of this friendship, opens up an entirely new world for Turtle, allowing her a glimpse inside a more normal atmosphere, which makes her yearn for something different, something more, something better for herself. Against insurmountable odds, Turtle fights not only a physically bruising battle, but an internal battle against many psychological angles. It’s exhausting, but her resilience is awe inspiring. ‘Her moments of happiness occur right at the margin of unbearable. She knows it will not last and she thinks, you can never forget, Turtle, what is like, here, without him. You have to hold tight on to it, how good it is.’ This writing is raw, uncompromising and stark, with a minimalistic approach to dialogue, and what dialogue there is, is often filled to capacity with harsh language. The author defers to or relies on descriptive scenery, or scenes of action, allowing peaceful, but heavy silences to dwell in places, as we catch our breaths. Turtle has a long road ahead, her isolation and severe abuse stunting her ability to articulate her emotions in a more profound manner. Turtle struggles mightily with the truth, her inner turmoil nearly as painful as the many other abuses she endures. ‘Nothing is as difficult as sustained and unremitting contact with your own mind.’ But, the underlying and overriding themes and ultimate relief, albeit not perfect, with some demons left to fight and work to be done, is still worth every ounce of agonizing pain I suffered. *Be aware this book could prompt triggers for some readers. Pulling out all the stars for this one- 5 stars

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    My Absolute Darling is absolutely disturbing. And dark. And depressing. Turtle is 14 years old and is being abused by her father - physically, sexually and emotionally. He is an extreme renegade survivalist and has isolated Turtle from friends, from people. They live in a remote part of California along the coast where she often escapes in order to breathe and sort out the emotional mess and confusion she is gripped with. During one of these escapes, she makes a friend. A boy who is a little olde My Absolute Darling is absolutely disturbing. And dark. And depressing. Turtle is 14 years old and is being abused by her father - physically, sexually and emotionally. He is an extreme renegade survivalist and has isolated Turtle from friends, from people. They live in a remote part of California along the coast where she often escapes in order to breathe and sort out the emotional mess and confusion she is gripped with. During one of these escapes, she makes a friend. A boy who is a little older than her and she is forced to confront the lies she has been living with. Did I like this? I'm not a sadist. But it was gripping, intense and evoked such a visceral repsonse from disgust, to hate, to hope. I think this author has talent, but not sure he needs to spin a tail in such detail to capture our attention. This is one is tough to rate. It was gripping but if you aren't comfortable with being uncomfortable, this is definitely a novel to stay away from. Would I recommend it? Hmmm. I have an iron stomach but this one tested its strength. I have to give it 4⭐️ though. It had me by the seat of my pants for the whole ride. I’m holding back a star because I'm not sure Tallent had to go the places he took me. But, at the same time, I'm not sure I would have arrived there if he hadn't. This one will stay with me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Marialyce (absltmom, yaya)

    What the heck did I just read? Why ever would I have decided to pick up this piece of garbage? Truth be told, I saw so many four and five star reviews that I think I probably read a different book from the rest of them. Yes, I could have cast it aside and believe me I sure wanted to. However, with so many glowing reviews, I figured just one more chapter, another fifty pages and I would come to a point where this "masterpiece" would find its way into my brain. Well, that never happened and now I What the heck did I just read? Why ever would I have decided to pick up this piece of garbage? Truth be told, I saw so many four and five star reviews that I think I probably read a different book from the rest of them. Yes, I could have cast it aside and believe me I sure wanted to. However, with so many glowing reviews, I figured just one more chapter, another fifty pages and I would come to a point where this "masterpiece" would find its way into my brain. Well, that never happened and now I get to add this to my files as a book that never should have been written (in my opinion). Turtle, the fourteen year old daughter of an abusive sicko father, has been abused sexually, physically, and emotionally. She has been brought up to be a survivalist, foul mouthed girl, friendless, doing poorly in school, and alone. She has herself to rely upon plus some "love" from her father who calls her his absolute darling. She meets two boys who befriend her. The boys seem as if they are trying out for a sitcom with their banter and their philosophical loquaciousness. They know something is wrong but hey they don't want to tread on Turtle's space and leave her to the whatever it is they sense is wrong. Turtle attends school where the teacher Anna (yes, they call the teacher by their first names ...so very progressive) recognizes the signs in Turtle that the words "child abuse" could be written across her forehead. The teacher does nothing. Where the heck was CPS? I don't care what you kinda sorta thought, if you as an educator suspected anything CPS should be notified. In point of fact, if you as an educator fail to do so, you would be liable. Oh well we all make mistakes right? So let's move on from there with Daddy dearest. He so loved his child we keep on reading. He is such a well read man, reading Descartes being his own person and screwing the establishment and really screwing anything and anybody including the young girl he picks up on a "find yourself" hiatus from Turtle. He is vile, but he is able to portray his virility and strength and wow can he shoot a gun! He has turned Turtle into a girl who can take care of herself. What an accomplished father correct? They live in a rat infested piece of garbage house off the beaten track of course and commune with nature. They carry around an array of guns and knives and their morning routine includes Turtle tossing her father a can of beer and she downing a few raw eggs and eating on one occasion as she is tutoring her father's pick up girl, scorpions. Yep, they are tough and mean, and able to take anything. Well, then enough with the salient points of this novel! In a word I found this book to be disgusting. I am well aware of the perverted nature of some adults who consider their children chattel to do with as they will but I felt this book went beyond that and in a sense seem to glorify the very nature of the depravity that some bear within them. There was the typical excuse of "oh my daddy beat me" as the kind of go to remark one makes when defending their bad behaviors. Suffice to say, I do NOT recommend this book. Sorry, but the aside to how descriptive this author writes to be is just a cover for a book that obviously thinks itself so current and so in your face. OK then rant over and thank god so is my reading of this book. Apologies also to those who found something in this book. I just could not find one single redeeming point.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kupersmith

    How did I manage to order a copy of the English edition of this loathsome piece of drivel? It’s a virtual copy of the American version. But it had a different dust jacket. That mattered. As I bathed in the stream of raw sewage that constitutes “dialog” I kept thinking back on Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days, which also features abusive father-daughter incest (now, that phrase is a pleonasm!) in the wilds, but is so much subtler and nuanced that for me it epitomized that difference betw How did I manage to order a copy of the English edition of this loathsome piece of drivel? It’s a virtual copy of the American version. But it had a different dust jacket. That mattered. As I bathed in the stream of raw sewage that constitutes “dialog” I kept thinking back on Claire Fuller’s Our Endless Numbered Days, which also features abusive father-daughter incest (now, that phrase is a pleonasm!) in the wilds, but is so much subtler and nuanced that for me it epitomized that difference between English and American literature & culture that accounts for my general aversion to contemporary American fiction by male authors. (Among women writers, we have some equal to the best, such as Megan Abbott.) So imagine my perplexity to find on the back a blurb by Claire Fuller herself: “Brilliantly urgent, brutal and uncompromising. Like a witness to a terrible car crash, I couldn’t draw my eyes away.” Well, I agree with “brutal” tho’ I’ve no notion what “urgent” means here. After I read Our Endless Numbered Days, I sent her a comment expressing a desire for a sequel. But I hope she doesn’t have Peggy borrow Turtle’s vocabulary: “We’ve got to traction my fucking motherfucking goddamn fingers,” she says when she breaks three fingers (later they seem to heal with remarkable speed. Her murderous father’s gun misfires and she thinks: “You motherfucker . . . you incompetent fuck. Probably he’d done a shitty job of retooling the gun for full auto and it’s jamming. . .” Later: “no, fuck that—you had your chance, you cunt, and you’re in it now. . . . Hold tight to the world and do not let this go and do not fuck this up.” That last phrase seems to be Turtle’s most admirable characteristic and were it possible to express noble ideas in the language of a fiend from the pit of hell possessing a fourteen year old girl, we’d have the author’s message, perhaps. I was less surprised to find another blurb from an English author I’d read: “A gut-wrenching, terrifying novel written so beautifully it sings off the page. Unlike anything I’ve read before.” That’s Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat, whose character Gramps is the most evil and disgusting I’d encountered in recent fiction (including the Gardener in The Butterfly Garden) till I met Turtle’s father Martin. Wasn’t surprised, because from her portrayal of America in Red Coat, I imagine Kate Hamer thinks that most of us Yanks are just like Martin, fondling our guns and expressing our affection for our offspring like this: “He drops to one knee and takes her into his arms. ‘Christ,’ he says, ‘Christ, Jesus Christ, kibble. Be careful. Christ, kibble. Christ.’ He drops her and she stands there, her waist encircled by his embrace. ‘How big you’re getting,’ he says, ‘how strong. My absolute darling. My absolute darling.’” He manages to enunciate the messianic title of the Son of God five times in succession, tho’ utterly devoid of any meaning. None of their “foul oaths” (as they would have been termed in the 18th century (in a Guardian interview Tallent says he’s read Pamela) mean anything. While the daughter oft refers to Martin as a “motherfucker,” surely “daughterfucker” would have been more appropriate. Strangely, Martin is also an intellectual autodidact, fond of reading David Hume (maybe 18th-century moralists were right about immoral nature of Hume’s philosophy), using chick-lit expressions such as “have this conversation” and capable of telling his daughter, “The truth of you, if it is there at all, exists beyond an unbridgeable and irreducible epistemological gap.” When I read that, I was about ready to enunciate an F-bomb myself. The other salient feature of this novel is Tallent’s excessive fixation on firearms, far beyond the needs of the plot. Turtle (her real name’s Julia and the reptilian alias is never explained) carries a 9mm Sig Sauer as well as her grandfather’s Bowie knife (how on earth she manages to sneak them into school, where the presence of a water pistol would lead to suspension and a major incident?) which she obsessively cleans even when she hasn’t been firing it, which makes no sense. The denouement depends on Martin’s having a dirty weapon, which I also cannot imagine. But then I couldn’t imagine either why Anna, Turtle’s former teacher who is concerned about her never called child protective services, which as a mandatory reporter she would have been required by law to do. Nor, for that matter, why Turtle couldn’t have saved Jacob and the other students at the dance after party from the maniacal Martin simply by calling the sheriff. The accounts of Turtle’s shooting a .357 Magnum revolver at a roadside sign from a moving truck and a coin from between a ten-year old girl’s fingers with a Colt .45 M1911 (surely an M1911A1 BTW) were equally unlikely. Neither is a weapon that a 14 year old would be handy with - recoil is terrific). What could have all the editors, agents, teachers, Guardian reviewers, and contemporary novelists have thought they were recommending? I haven’t a clue. But I suspect that My Absolute Darling is another indication of the complete moral and spiritual vacuum that we call Postmodernism. The lush overblown natural descriptions of the Northern California coast give readers of “literary fiction” the opportunity to pretend that they are reading “serious fiction” while they inwardly can enjoy the comic-book action of a pistol-packin’ kick-ass teen. As for me, I’ll return to S. Williams’ Tuesday Falling for the genuine article, authentic portrayal of good and evil and moral and spiritual values.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mary Beth

    Just got back from a Florida vacation! 4.5 stars!! Turtle Alveston is a survivor. She has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, and is raised by her charismatic father Martin, who is an awful man who tortures her. She is fourteen years old. She is raised with lots of guns. They are all hooked on wall pegs in her room. She has a Lewis Machine & Tool AR-10, a Noveske AR-15 and a Remington 870 twelve gauge pump-action shotgun. Her favorite gun is her AR-10. It is so heavy. Every night she Just got back from a Florida vacation! 4.5 stars!! Turtle Alveston is a survivor. She has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, and is raised by her charismatic father Martin, who is an awful man who tortures her. She is fourteen years old. She is raised with lots of guns. They are all hooked on wall pegs in her room. She has a Lewis Machine & Tool AR-10, a Noveske AR-15 and a Remington 870 twelve gauge pump-action shotgun. Her favorite gun is her AR-10. It is so heavy. Every night she dissembles the gun and cleans it with a brass bristled brush and with cotton patches. Turtle loves the forest, and roams all over it. She knows her way and meets a friend named Jacob, in the forest. She is known to go thirty miles across country in a single day. Her Dad says she is part wild cat, you can't wear her out. When she was just a little thing, she would walk all the way to the Little River Market, in her diapers and bare feet. Turtles eyes are cold blue eyes, full of murder and vitriol. Her mother said that it was a mountain lion that got her that way. She says that she was asleep in her bedroom and Martin left the mudroom door open and when Turtle woke up a mountain lion was in bed with her. Turtle doesn't like to go to school. Her teacher asks her why she isn't at school and Turtle raises her hands in helplessness and let's them drop. She says " I have tried and tried and I fail, and that's all that I ever do." When she does go to school, she just sits there and stares out the window and never studies. She isolates herself from the other students and struggles with social skills. Turtle didn't believe in herself, she never tried because she was afraid that she would fail. Once she started trying she got good grades. Martin's Dad was just as bad as he was. He was very sadistic. He was gentle with Turtle. When Turtle meets Jacob, things change for her. He looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. They both have a teenage crush with each other. Her life with Martin, her dad, is not safe and he wants Turtle all to himself. Turtle then starts imagining her escape from Martin. My thoughts I just loved this book!!! I do not know why I loved it so much. This is another terrible father and daughter relationship. There have been lots of books about this kind of relationship this year. I have read three of them so far and this is the most darkest and disturbing out of all of then. It is very similar to The Marsh King's Daughter. Both daughters loved and adored their fathers, but this one is extremely dark and disturbing comparing the two. I think a lot of people will love this book and others will hate it. I would start out reading the first chapter and after reading it, if you can get passed that chapter, you will be able to read this book. I think many people will not be able to get passed the first chapter, and believe me if you can't pass that chapter, I can deeply understand because it was almost too much for me. The rest of the book gets better, at least that is my honest opinion but it is a very graphic book. I did like the writing style and thought it was beautifully written but I thought that the foul language ruined it, a little. I don't mind foul language but this was a little over the top. I took a 1/2 star off because of it, and that's the only reason why I didn't give it 5 stars. I thought the characters were done very well. I loved Turtle and my heart just went out for her. If you loved The Marsh King's daughter and you feel you want to go a lot more darker, then I highly recommend it. You have been warned, and hope you can take the plunge, many others won't be able too, and I can deeply understand if you can't.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Canadian Reader

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Appalling. After being challenged for being judgmental of people who “enjoyed” this book or who find it some kind of a masterpiece, after whimping out and not wanting to enter the fray, I feel I must stand by my original response to this book: I find it concerning, worrisome, disturbing even, that large numbers of people should rhapsodize about a book so dark, cruel, and violent. I see the graphic depictions of child abuse--physical and sexual-- as exploitative, part of a wider trend of the sexual Appalling. After being challenged for being judgmental of people who “enjoyed” this book or who find it some kind of a masterpiece, after whimping out and not wanting to enter the fray, I feel I must stand by my original response to this book: I find it concerning, worrisome, disturbing even, that large numbers of people should rhapsodize about a book so dark, cruel, and violent. I see the graphic depictions of child abuse--physical and sexual-- as exploitative, part of a wider trend of the sexualization of children in our culture. People aren't raving over this book because of the fine nature writing--they are attracted to the darkness, the sordid details, and the taboo. I would add: examine why you like this. What contribution is it really making to the world? What is the great statement here? Could it have been achieved by other means? In response to an earlier observation I made on this site-- that the central child character’s reaction to her abuse (i.e.,wanting to be raped and responding with gun violence)--was not representative of an abuse/assault victim, another Goodreads member sought to take me in hand by (flippantly and dismissively, I believe) pointing out that an author is under no obligation to create books and characters that are “poster children for victims of sexual violence”. It should be made clear that I was not asking for political correctness. Obviously, authors can do whatever they damn well please. However, I as a reader also have rights: including the right to object. With regards to sexual and physical violence, I believe that authors do have some moral, human, obligation to depict a victim, particularly a child victim, with sensitivity and psychological realism, not perpetuate should-have-died myths or titillate their audience with graphic details, language that romanticizes incest, or exclamations about love. Turtle, the central character in this piece (and her responses) is/are dwarfed by the graphic, sensational, and frankly gratuitous details of the physical, sexual and emotional violence done to her. To me, the descriptions are exploitative. They read like violent male sexual fantasies—descriptions of snuff film scenes. At one point, Turtle painfully and horrifically dangles from ceiling beams while her father holds a knife to her crotch area, ready to impale her should she drop—perhaps the most violent penetration image in the book, but then again, perhaps not. Even a lovable, loyal elderly dog’s evisceration is described in shameful and horrifying detail. Wrap these horrors up in what some call “lush” descriptions of the northern Californian landscape, lots of literary and philosophy allusions, and we are supposed to believe this is an American masterpiece. American, it is. Masterpiece, it is not. I don't care what Stephen King says about it. I am not interested in having intellectual debates with other readers about how the story might have changed had Turtle been given a credible inner life and response to her terrible violation. You can't convince me that the author’s choices were necessary ones or served some higher, artistic goal. I also don't happen to believe that being male disqualifies one from apprehending and sensitively and credibly depicting a female’s response to abuse or sexual assault. However, it is perfectly clear to me that Gabriel Tallent was in no way up to the task. While his bank account may not be suffering for it, his book does. My Absolute Darling is an opportunistic, sensational, manipulative piece. It is not great art. It is not art at all.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    It can't be anything but the full five stars. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this book might just have ruined the word 'darling' for me. Each time I see it written or hear it spoken, I get that kick in the stomach, the tightening at the back of your throat, the slight tensing of the body you get when you remember something awful. You want desperately to turn away. I have rarely been so overwhelmed with the sheer physicality of my response to a book. I am sickened. I am living someone It can't be anything but the full five stars. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that this book might just have ruined the word 'darling' for me. Each time I see it written or hear it spoken, I get that kick in the stomach, the tightening at the back of your throat, the slight tensing of the body you get when you remember something awful. You want desperately to turn away. I have rarely been so overwhelmed with the sheer physicality of my response to a book. I am sickened. I am living someone else's reality. And it is not where I want to be, but I can't look away. At the same time, it is beautiful. The descriptive power Tallent employs emphasises both the wonder of the natural world and the savage brutality experienced by Turtle. But it's no easy dichotomy at work here, she is lost within the abusive world she inhabits, loving and hating her father in equal measure. It demands you consider how it must feel from inside the circle, the physical and sexual assault so clear to us as readers is her normality. It takes more than just someone promising her a better existence before she can see the possibilities her life just might hold. It's so painful to watch her push herself towards this understanding and with every setback you're as angry at her as you are hurt for her. Focusing on the murky nature of human emotion and behaviour, this book beings life to technicolour reality; clarity is the easy answer in fiction and this aims so much higher than that. An outstanding and daring debut, a literary masterpiece, and a piece of emotive fiction that'll be very hard to forget. Read it if you can. ARC via Netgalley

  15. 5 out of 5

    Debra

    3.5 stars It's obvious why readers are so polarized on this book. This book is about physical, emotional and sexual abuse of a fourteen-year-old girl by her father. It's not an easy read and many will be turned off by it. Hell, we all should be turned off by it! Turtle Alveston is a fourteen-year-old girl living with her survivalist father in Northern California (her Mother is Dead). She knows the land and has no problem going out into the forest exploring on her own and is quite handy with a gun. 3.5 stars It's obvious why readers are so polarized on this book. This book is about physical, emotional and sexual abuse of a fourteen-year-old girl by her father. It's not an easy read and many will be turned off by it. Hell, we all should be turned off by it! Turtle Alveston is a fourteen-year-old girl living with her survivalist father in Northern California (her Mother is Dead). She knows the land and has no problem going out into the forest exploring on her own and is quite handy with a gun. She can survive off the land, but can she survive within her father's home? A home in which each morning, before leaving for school, she throws her father a beer and let’s not forget in the beginning of the book we learn he puts their dishes out to be licked clean by raccoons before running a little water on them to be used again. At school Turtle is isolated and withdrawn. She is quiet and lacks friends. She struggles with her studies and although she will be passed on to high school it is evident that she is far behind her peers. Turtle has low self-esteem and self-loathing. Martin, her father, is a rough man. He refers to Turtle as his "absolute darling" and is systematically physically, emotionally and sexually abusive to her. " Goddamn Turtle, Goddamn” He is a man of great depravity and it is alarming that no one seems to suspect anything wrong is going on in that house. As Turtle ventures out into the world, she is introduced to many people and begins to see a very different type of life far opposite than the life she has with her misogynist controlling abusive father. With hopes of a better life, will she have the strength and courage to break free and finally be able to live her own life? One complaint about this book is that some of the scenes to me feels as if they were put in there for the shock value. Abuse in all forms is graphic, shocking and horrific but some of the scenes in the book felt, I don't quite know how to put my finger on it, but something about how it was presented felt off. Books such as "The Roanoke Girls" or "The Marsh King's Daughter" came to mind while reading this book. I feel that those two books were able to pull off what this book could not - a more believable viewpoint on survival-ism (The Marsh King's Daughter) and sick twisted relationships with molestation (The Roanoke girls) No matter what you think of this book, it has people talking, and I believe that was the Author's intention. When a book causes you to think of other books while reading it; well that can be a good thing or a bad thing. In this case, I thought of books that handled the subject matter better. See more of my reviews at www.openbookpost.com

  16. 4 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    No. This isn't okay. It's not okay to portray unspeakable violence against a child as though it were a thriller novel and posit it as high literary art. This book, with its overwritten prose that borders on the baroque, glorifies the rape and incest and abuse of Turtle by suggesting that the teen might possibly enjoy it, in her confused love for and loyalty to her sociopathic father. I am aware this book is a critics' darling. It is compulsively readable. Turtle and her friends are impossible no No. This isn't okay. It's not okay to portray unspeakable violence against a child as though it were a thriller novel and posit it as high literary art. This book, with its overwritten prose that borders on the baroque, glorifies the rape and incest and abuse of Turtle by suggesting that the teen might possibly enjoy it, in her confused love for and loyalty to her sociopathic father. I am aware this book is a critics' darling. It is compulsively readable. Turtle and her friends are impossible not to adore and cheer for. The plot is compelling, until it becomes eye-rolling. The writing, when Tallent is not weighing it down with firearms or landscapes or adjectives—oh, so very many many many adjectives—is vivid and occasionally lovely. But it fails the very character it purports to celebrate. The writer sexualizes the violence against Turtle and demeans her at every step. Although nominally in close third person, Turtle's POV is distant and unnatural, revealing the writer's distance from his character and his exploitation of her as a means to a plot point. It is deeply frustrating and chilling in this era of #MeToo and #TimesUp that we still have to protest this shit: men co-opting women's stories and making money by glorifying their particular pain.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Beata

    This is one of the hardest novels for me to review ..... Honestly, I was about to finish My Absolute Darling after approximately 100 pages. The sheer horror of the story was much too much for me at that moment. Some scenes were too explicit for me Yet, I continued, and I'm glad I read it till the very end. Turtle is a most unusual girl, abused in the most horrid ways imaginable .... and yet, she knows how to survive. She's physically and mentally scared, but she is just a teenager and I hope tha This is one of the hardest novels for me to review ..... Honestly, I was about to finish My Absolute Darling after approximately 100 pages. The sheer horror of the story was much too much for me at that moment. Some scenes were too explicit for me Yet, I continued, and I'm glad I read it till the very end. Turtle is a most unusual girl, abused in the most horrid ways imaginable .... and yet, she knows how to survive. She's physically and mentally scared, but she is just a teenager and I hope that loving and caring people around her will cure her. Would I recommend this book to everyone? No, definitely not. Will I read it at some point again? No............ Will I think about Turtle? Probably yes .......

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carol (Bookaria)

    Turtle is fourteen years old and lives with her father Martin. She goes to middle school but is a very reserved child who has difficulties excelling in school. One day she meets Jacob, a kid that is charming, funny and completely lovable. This encounter ignites a spark in Turtle that propels her to question the relationship she has with her father.  Turtle is an amazing character. The novel is narrated from her point of view and the author did an excellent job developing the story and her journey Turtle is fourteen years old and lives with her father Martin. She goes to middle school but is a very reserved child who has difficulties excelling in school. One day she meets Jacob, a kid that is charming, funny and completely lovable. This encounter ignites a spark in Turtle that propels her to question the relationship she has with her father.  Turtle is an amazing character. The novel is narrated from her point of view and the author did an excellent job developing the story and her journey. The book contains strong scenes that are described meticulously well. The novel is interesting, dark and beautifully written. I highly recommend this wonderful book. FINAL NOTE: what a stunning cover!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Cathy Branciforte

    Did not finish....could not finish. Disliked this book a lot. I normally don't write about books that I don't finish and don't like giving negative reviews, but with all of the hype on this book, I thought there needed to be some balance of opinions. I really disliked it.....all of the boring descriptions of guns, the long descriptions of everything else. Once I started skimming over entire paragraphs, then pages, I knew I was not going to finish this book. I am sure I'm not the only one. PS. I h Did not finish....could not finish. Disliked this book a lot. I normally don't write about books that I don't finish and don't like giving negative reviews, but with all of the hype on this book, I thought there needed to be some balance of opinions. I really disliked it.....all of the boring descriptions of guns, the long descriptions of everything else. Once I started skimming over entire paragraphs, then pages, I knew I was not going to finish this book. I am sure I'm not the only one. PS. I have since discussed this book with 3 others who have read it and also disliked it, mainly for the themes, the long winded descriptions, the violence, etc. I think there are many readers who just don't review books or give their honest opinions on Goodreads. I tend to rely on the ratings on Goodreads and it does influence what I read and how long I stay with it until I just stop and move on. This was one of those that I thought was just me, but it's not.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Helene Jeppesen

    I didn't quite know what to expect from "My Absolute Darling" other than that it would be a heart-breaking story, and it certainly was! This debut novel from Gabriel Tallent is so raw, intense and honest from the very first pages and throughout that you can't help but smile at the appropriateness of the author's last name. Turtle, our 14-year-old protagonist, lives alone with her father in Northern California. Their relationship is bizarre and stinging; Martin, the father, teaches Turtle to shoo I didn't quite know what to expect from "My Absolute Darling" other than that it would be a heart-breaking story, and it certainly was! This debut novel from Gabriel Tallent is so raw, intense and honest from the very first pages and throughout that you can't help but smile at the appropriateness of the author's last name. Turtle, our 14-year-old protagonist, lives alone with her father in Northern California. Their relationship is bizarre and stinging; Martin, the father, teaches Turtle to shoot and fend for herself. He uses extreme methods to raise her, meaning that some of the scenes in this book are almost too agonizing to read. This is one of those books that are hard to read, but very important! It takes some amazing twists and turns, and it wraps up beautifully in the end leaving the reader with a void inside (that way I haven't said too much). I hated this and I loved it! I was so fascinated and captivated but also disgusted. A book that can make me feel these things definitely deserves a high rating!

  21. 5 out of 5

    Barbara

    Many reviewers praise this debut novel by Gabriel Tallent, citing the lyrical prose and powerful coming-of-age story. Other reviewers skewer the book for its graphic scenes of rape, violence, and psychological torture. I'm in the latter camp. The book relates an intense tale of an adolescent girl finding her voice - and guts - in very difficult circumstances. This is an admirable theme. To me though, the book is disturbing and - in some places - quite horrific. ***** Julia Alveston, called Turtle, Many reviewers praise this debut novel by Gabriel Tallent, citing the lyrical prose and powerful coming-of-age story. Other reviewers skewer the book for its graphic scenes of rape, violence, and psychological torture. I'm in the latter camp. The book relates an intense tale of an adolescent girl finding her voice - and guts - in very difficult circumstances. This is an admirable theme. To me though, the book is disturbing and - in some places - quite horrific. ***** Julia Alveston, called Turtle, is a 14-year-old girl who - after her mother died years ago - has been raised by her father Martin. They live on a woodsy property in Mendocino, California, in a house that's falling apart. Martin's pet name for Turtle is Kibble, but he's just as likely to refer to her as bitch or cunt - names she's adopted to think about herself and most other females. Martin, who apparently works as a free-lance carpenter, is highly intelligent and well-read. He often sermonizes about global warming, war in the Middle East, and other issues that demonstrate how flawed the human race is. Martin seems to believe the world is on the brink of collapse, and he's amassed a large supply of non-perishable foods, veterinary medical supplies (which he uses for people), and guns.....lots and lots of guns. Martin taught Turtle to shoot when she was six-years-old, and the girl is now a dead shot, constantly practicing with and cleaning her weapons. Unfortunately Turtle isn't as capable in her middle-school classes, and - goaded by Martin - thinks of herself as stupid and incapable of learning. In fact, Turtle is profoundly psychologically damaged. Martin has isolated Turtle for years - discouraging relationships with other people - and has brainwashed her into thinking he's the 'best daddy in the world' who 'loves her more than anyone's ever been loved.' In fact, Martin has been battering and sexually abusing Turtle since she was small, but she accepts this as evidence of how much she's cherished. There are explicit rape scenes in the book, as well as chapters in which Martin hits Kibble, beats her with an iron rod, throws her around, and mentally torments her. Martin is extremely jealous of Turtle, and doesn't want her to have any friends. Martin even resents Kibble's affection for her grandfather (Martin's dad) who lives in a trailer on the property. When Grandpa gives Turtle his cherished army knife - which she plans to keep in pristine condition - Martin promptly takes the knife and spoils the smooth blade. Daddy then holds the knife beneath Kibble's crotch while he forces her to do a series of agonizing pull-ups. Afterwards, Martin (literally) can't stop laughing at the 'expression on Kibble's face.' Clearly, Martin - who calls Kibble 'my absolute darling' and constantly tells her 'you are mine' - is a manipulative psychopath. For her part, Turtle can't imagine life without her beloved Daddy. Thus, when anyone - a teacher, school parent, or Grandpa - tries to reach out and ask about Martin, Turtle - fiercely protective - lies. Moreover, Turtle knows that, if confronted, Martin would shoot to kill - and she doesn't want to lose him to prison. Turtle does appear to make tiny bids for independence. One day she takes off on a long barefoot hike in the woods (Turtle's calloused feet are as tough as shoe leather) and comes across two high school boys - Brett and Jacob - who've become lost during an orienteering project. Turtle assists the boys and camps out with them, and the lads - VERY IMPRESSED with her outdoorsy skills - call her a ninja. Brett and Jacob are smart, well-educated boys from hippy-dippy households, and much of their conversation sounds like Greek philosophers chatting.....which struck me as very unrealistic. In any case, the three kids become friends, and there's a clear attraction between Turtle and Jacob. When Martin finds out about this, all hell breaks loose. At one point Martin goes off on a trip and returns with a nine-year-old girl named Cayenne - whose presence he doesn't really explain. This leads to a nightmare scene in which - following a shooting accident - Martin and Turtle amputate the child's fingertip. When Turtle tries to address Martin about Cayenne's pain, he's dismissive and goes off on a rant about pain making us aware of other people (I couldn't make heads or tails of this diatribe.) To me Martin is a monster. I don't want to give away spoilers so I'll just say that Turtle eventually realizes she has to make a change.....and guns are fired. I'm not clear what Tallent's intentions were in writing this book. Perhaps he wanted to showcase a courageous young lady who - despite overwhelmingly difficult circumstances - tries to break away and do right. This would be a laudable lesson, but comes at a high cost (to the reader). Though I didn't enjoy the book I do acknowledge that it's well-written. The author's prose brings the characters and their surroundings vividly to life, and I could picture all the scenes in my mind. Martin is described as a large muscular man and - for some reason - his 'huge stubby toes' are etched in my mind.....a picture I don't like. (LOL) I'm giving the book three stars because - though I hate the story - I admire the writing. I personally wouldn't recommend the book to anyone. However, since the novel has received so much praise, maybe you have to take gander at it and make up your own mind. You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....

  22. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    Hard as I tried I just couldn’t love this book. Heavy on content and heavy on descriptions made this book well....heavy. It’s dark, gritty, grim and depressingly disturbing. Such as most of the content of the book the writing felt murky. It was well written it can’t be disputed. But I felt almost angry at the author for putting me through so much turmoil and trauma with barely any relief. I guess this was the power of this book but I struggled to want to read it. I can already see that this book Hard as I tried I just couldn’t love this book. Heavy on content and heavy on descriptions made this book well....heavy. It’s dark, gritty, grim and depressingly disturbing. Such as most of the content of the book the writing felt murky. It was well written it can’t be disputed. But I felt almost angry at the author for putting me through so much turmoil and trauma with barely any relief. I guess this was the power of this book but I struggled to want to read it. I can already see that this book is a book that may divide and I’ve seen many glowing reviews so don’t let me deter you. I think maybe the story was too despairing and I wasn’t in the best frame of mind to tackle this heavy subject at this particular time in my life. Nor do I think I’ll ever be reading this one again. Ever.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Éimhear (A Little Haze)

    I often think a three star review is the hardest to write. For me it's a positive rating and should be viewed as a recommendation to read if the subject matter or author interests you and that's firmly the recommendation that I give to 'My Absolute Darling'. Gabriel Tallent is a wonderful writer. There is absolutely no denying that. However, for me personally this book was too much. I don't think I am the right reader. The novel follows the story of young Turtle Alveston and her abusive upbringi I often think a three star review is the hardest to write. For me it's a positive rating and should be viewed as a recommendation to read if the subject matter or author interests you and that's firmly the recommendation that I give to 'My Absolute Darling'. Gabriel Tallent is a wonderful writer. There is absolutely no denying that. However, for me personally this book was too much. I don't think I am the right reader. The novel follows the story of young Turtle Alveston and her abusive upbringing by her father. And it absolutely destroyed me in places. The descriptions of what Turtle endured (psychological, physical and sexual abuse) were so visceral. Reading this was like a sucker punch to my gut. But I think the most crippling part of this read for me was reading about Turtle's attitude to herself. Her inner voice was so harsh. So crass. Callous... Her self-loathing was soul destroying for me as a reader to read about. I got so frustrated at times just wishing that she could see that she was a victim. Wishing that she could realise that her life was not what life should be. And I know that this frustration was because of the magnificent way the story was written but I could not reconcile myself to that. I found the language too severe rather than emotive. It simply was not to my personal taste but if you are a reader that can separate your personal feelings from such severity of word then there is much to savour in the prose. Turtle's world is a supremely isolated one. There are very few moments of true connections when she interacts with other characters in the novel. However two teenage boys from the local high school do somehow manage to break down her walls for a moment or two and it is these precious moments that make this novel sing. These are the moments that truly break the heart because you realise how lost Turtle is. How alone she is. How completely wrong in her beliefs about life she is. Personally I found the middle third of the novel to be the best part. The beginning, I think, shocked me to my core too much and I was unable to properly pick this novel up for a few days after starting. However, that middle third was where I was finally able to appreciate the aim of the writing. Sadly, I did feel that the climax of the novel let the story down. I was going to award four stars but changed my mind upon reading the ending. For me it felt much too dramatic and almost disingenuous to the soul of the book. I was not a fan of the pacing of the storyline; the first two thirds or so of the book had a fairly even pace but for the climax I don't think the change of pace was handled as delicately as it could have been. This is a thought provoking debut novel that deserves the hype it is getting. The author Stephen King is among its many fans. However, it is a book suited to a particular type of reader and sadly it seems, I am not the right kind. I would very much recommend it to anyone interested in literary fiction but who has a more suitable disposition than I do when reading a book containing such severe language and abusive situations. three stars *A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by the publisher, Harper Collins UK: 4th Estate, via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ivana - Diary of Difference

    There are books that make you love them from the first page. This one was not one of those! There were millions of times when I wanted to give it up and put this book down - I found it extremely hard to keep going, but I somehow finished it. The story itself is so twisted, it is just unbelievable. It is one of the most twisted plots I've ever read in my life. And there were parts I loved, but there were also parts I hated. The thing I loved the most was the adventures Turtle had with Jacob. The t There are books that make you love them from the first page. This one was not one of those! There were millions of times when I wanted to give it up and put this book down - I found it extremely hard to keep going, but I somehow finished it. The story itself is so twisted, it is just unbelievable. It is one of the most twisted plots I've ever read in my life. And there were parts I loved, but there were also parts I hated. The thing I loved the most was the adventures Turtle had with Jacob. The thing I hated the most... - Where do I start? The relationship between Turtle and her father, the unrealistic characters description, the unreliable situations they find themselves into, the unreal thoughts that a 14-year-old girl might have, the swearing throughout the book. I have never had such a feeling towards a book, and as much as I don't like it - it bothers me. It bothers me of what could have happened, what could be different, why this and why that... It is definitely worth reading it, but only for those that can cope with it. I 'm not sure if I can...

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    There's been much written about this book already, and I don't wish to tread well-worn ground. Let me just say that I found it to be an incredibly compelling portrait of survival and coming-of-age: of a girl who is a survivor in the only way she knows how--by hunkering down in her shell (her nickname is Turtle, after all)--until at last she recognizes what she's been experiencing as the abuse it always was. It's also a book that eschews easy stereotypes. Turtle's abusive father, Martin, is an er There's been much written about this book already, and I don't wish to tread well-worn ground. Let me just say that I found it to be an incredibly compelling portrait of survival and coming-of-age: of a girl who is a survivor in the only way she knows how--by hunkering down in her shell (her nickname is Turtle, after all)--until at last she recognizes what she's been experiencing as the abuse it always was. It's also a book that eschews easy stereotypes. Turtle's abusive father, Martin, is an erudite left-wing gun-toting survivalist. To me the notion of survival forms the backbone of this book. Martin is convinced that climate change will soon destroy civilization and that Turtle needs survival skills more than she needs formal education. This sort of existential angst isn't made overly explicit, but it's always there in the background, driving him. You could almost see this book as a study in how people react in the face of impending doom. They don't act well; they retreat into themselves; they abuse their young. I don't want to suggest that any of this excuses Martin's behavior--and the narrative certainly doesn't suggest that at all--but I do see it as one of the drivers of his character and what makes him more than just a cardboard villain. Turtle too has a sense of nature as both an implacable foe and a force that gives her meaning and sustenance. You can see this in how attuned to nature she is, how she's a skilled hunter and survivalist in her own right. Her father taught her well. And this, in many ways, is her conundrum: that the father who taught her so much, who made her who she is and equipped her for survival, has also been traumatizing her for his own selfish ends. How can she ever become her own person, free from his abuse? Well, she can't really--she can just put her head down and do the one good thing he taught her: survive. And sometimes, that's enough.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Hannah Greendale

    DNF because here again is a male author writing about rape like the woman wants it, likes it, experiences a sensuous thrill from it. Before her father rapes her: She thinks, do it, I want it. While her father rapes her: His touch brings her skin to life, and she holds it all within the private theater of her mind, where anything is permitted, their two shadows cast across the sheet and knit together. After her father rapes her: When he is asleep, she rises and walks through the house alone, holdi DNF because here again is a male author writing about rape like the woman wants it, likes it, experiences a sensuous thrill from it. Before her father rapes her: She thinks, do it, I want it. While her father rapes her: His touch brings her skin to life, and she holds it all within the private theater of her mind, where anything is permitted, their two shadows cast across the sheet and knit together. After her father rapes her: When he is asleep, she rises and walks through the house alone, holding her engorged pussy to catch the unspooling warmth. Enough with these books that promote rape culture. I'm done.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    After reading Roxane Gay's review, I realized she had said pretty much everything I felt about this over hyped, needlessly wordy novel. It's offputting in the extreme with the sexual language describing the 14 year old girl's body as her father rapes her and brutalizes her. It seems pornographic at times. I know the author wants to show "Turtle" as ambivalent about the abuse she has suffered, but it's not believable from the girl's point of view. It seems to be more of a man's fantasy, than actu After reading Roxane Gay's review, I realized she had said pretty much everything I felt about this over hyped, needlessly wordy novel. It's offputting in the extreme with the sexual language describing the 14 year old girl's body as her father rapes her and brutalizes her. It seems pornographic at times. I know the author wants to show "Turtle" as ambivalent about the abuse she has suffered, but it's not believable from the girl's point of view. It seems to be more of a man's fantasy, than actual trauma. After the first sex scene which comes pretty early in, I had to set this down for a while. I wish I had left it there forever. Unlike many readers, I did like the boys that Turtle meets and their witty, verbose language was fun too. But again, I don't think it served the plot well, because Turtle is almost monosyllabic and I don't think meeting such articulate teenagers would have been comfortable for her. They seem to talk at her not to her. She doesn't understand them, not because she is not smart, but only because she has been raised by such a strange man.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    This debut novel awed me. It destroyed me. It inspired me. Yes, it's the story of a 14-year-old girl, her knife, her Sig Sauer, and her sadistic, survivalist father. But it is also one of the most beautifully written and spectacularly poignant novels I have ever read. I loved every single word. Every. Single. Word. This debut novel awed me. It destroyed me. It inspired me. Yes, it's the story of a 14-year-old girl, her knife, her Sig Sauer, and her sadistic, survivalist father. But it is also one of the most beautifully written and spectacularly poignant novels I have ever read. I loved every single word. Every. Single. Word.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marchpane

    EDIT: I keep going back and forth on my star rating for this book. For me the tie-breaker question is "would I recommend this book to others?". After thinking about it further, and hearing interviews with the author, my answer to that question is no. ______ Having finished My Absolute Darling feels like being chewed up and spat out, covered in muck. Reading this book is a grueling experience, and not one to be undertaken lightly. Equal parts compelling and appalling, I've seen other reviews describ EDIT: I keep going back and forth on my star rating for this book. For me the tie-breaker question is "would I recommend this book to others?". After thinking about it further, and hearing interviews with the author, my answer to that question is no. ______ Having finished My Absolute Darling feels like being chewed up and spat out, covered in muck. Reading this book is a grueling experience, and not one to be undertaken lightly. Equal parts compelling and appalling, I've seen other reviews describe My Absolute Darling as "unputdownable". Well, I did put it down. I put it down after a very confronting scene at the end of the first chapter. I put it down for over a month while I read other things and decided whether I wanted to continue with it at all. Now, to be fair, my first attempt at this book came at a bad time. This was the eighth (eighth!) book in a row to throw a surprise incest/child abuse/sexual assault storyline at me. It didn't matter what genre or type of book I picked up, this streak seemed like it would never end. I don't shy away from such difficult content, but nor do I deliberately seek it out, and being constantly blindsided was just too much. What's more, Tallent does not elide or obscure the horrific incidents as many authors do, he puts you in the room while they are happening and gives you the visceral details. It's incredibly tough to read at times. When I eventually returned to the book, I found a gripping story, powerfully told and with unforgettable characters. The tension created is palpable, almost unbearable at times, especially towards the end as the inevitable showdown looms and then plays out. Many scenes from this book will be etched on my memory. Not just the traumatic ones, but the quieter and tender moments too. It's a feat of writing that the setting and characters are so vividly rendered. But I can't recommend My Absolute Darling without hesitation - its dark content and the ambiguity with which it deals with these themes make for one tough read. Proceed with caution.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kelli

    I may be missing out on a masterpiece but I.just.can’t! I don’t want to read another book about a semi-feral child with wilderness skills and a depraved father, and I definitely don’t want to read another book about (view spoiler)[incest (hide spoiler)] this. I struggled with the writing style, from the father’s philosophical diatribes to the descriptions of the landscape, but the gratuitous language employed to describe...well, let’s just say I’m not up for continuing this journey. I stuck with I may be missing out on a masterpiece but I.just.can’t! I don’t want to read another book about a semi-feral child with wilderness skills and a depraved father, and I definitely don’t want to read another book about (view spoiler)[incest (hide spoiler)] this. I struggled with the writing style, from the father’s philosophical diatribes to the descriptions of the landscape, but the gratuitous language employed to describe...well, let’s just say I’m not up for continuing this journey. I stuck with this one much longer than I should have. Others readers that I greatly respect have given this very high marks and deemed it worth the pain. Perhaps it is...I’ll take their word for it. DNF

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