My Absolute Darling

Gabriel Tallent

My Absolute Darling
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My Absolute Darling

Gabriel Tallent

A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-year-old girl’s heart-stopping fight for her own soul.

‘You think you’re invincible. You think you won’t ever miss. We need to put the fear on you. You need to surrender yourself to death before you ever begin, and accept your life as a state of grace, and then and only then will you be good enough.’

At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall;  That chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it;  That her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world.  And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him.

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; Why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done.

And what her daddy will do when he finds out…

Sometimes strength is not the same as courage. Sometimes leaving is not the only way to escape. Sometimes surviving isn’t enough.

Review

Sometimes, it’s a single character that makes a novel unforgettable; sometimes an intense plot puts you in a book’s grip; other times still, it’s the writer’s craft that draws you in and keeps you there. But when these three elements are equally accomplished (and I think it’s actually rare that they are), then you have quite a reading experience on the cards: My Absolute Darling is a very intense one. Some months down the track, I’m not sure I’ve recovered just yet.

‘Turtle’ Alveston is the character in question, a 14 year-old survivor of family violence, enduring a life of torment with her abusive father on the edge of the wilds of northern California. She’s a tough young woman because she must be, and is resourceful in a way only the daughter of an unhinged survivalist could be. Finding solace in nature, she’s understandably most comfortable alone, though she still has to tolerate the banalities of everyday life with people unaware of her hellish home existence. But something’s got to give: it’s just a matter of exactly what, when and where.

Be warned that this book has some graphic and upsetting scenes, and some moments so anxiety-inducing and terrifying that it had me reading with my eyes half closed. This is not a book for the fainthearted; but if you’ve read and loved A Little Life or Preparation for the Next Life, and you’re up for being challenged by the dark places an author can take their characters, then there is so much reward in Turtle’s story – ultimately one of redemption, strength and survival – and so much beauty in Tallent’s writing, that it reminded me of why I love to read. This book is completely gut-wrenching, utterly compelling, and very, very good.


Alison Huber is the head book buyer at Readings.

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