Saturday, October 7, 2017

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Turtle Alveston is fourteen and she could kill you as easily as look at you.  Turtle lives in the Pacific Northwest far back in the woods with her survivalist father, Martin.  He has trained her to shoot a gun with sharpshooter accuracy.  She can use a knife, live for days in the wild and needs no one.  Martin has taught her to distrust everyone, telling her that they only want to take her away from the only life she's known.

Martin has spent her life making her totally dependent on him.  He has abused her physically, emotionally and sexually, telling her that only he loves her and that only he can protect her.  Turtle has no self-esteem, growing up in a world where women and everything about them is belittled.  She is isolated although she does go to school as Martin knows she could be taken away if he doesn't send her.  But she has no friends there and barely tries.  What is important is Martin and pleasing him for she is his darling, his absolute darling. 

Then it happens.  While out in the woods one day, she meets Jacob and his friend.  They were going camping but are lost and have no skills to survive in the wild.  For some reason, Turtle approaches them and helps them make a campsite and stays with them that night.  It opens an entire new world to her, one that she realises Martin will never tolerate but one that she wants.  She continues to see Jacob until Martin finds out and she has to give him up.  Events mount up until she realises that she will have to choose between living her life as Martin's darling or joining the real world.  Can she break away from everything she has been taught?

Turtle is a character like no other I've read about.  She bursts onto the pages and into the reader's mind, never to depart.  This book is getting enormous buzz and it should.  It is easily the best book I've read this year.  The back cover blurbs are from authors such as Celeste Ng, Stephen King and Phil Klay.  This is a debut novel although that is hard to believe.  Tallent mixes stark horror with such poetic language that the reader is transported into Turtle's world.  This book is recommended for literary fiction readers.

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