My Absolute Darling (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

My Absolute Darling dug its claws into me deep and hard. The main character, a 14 year old girl struggling in a very difficult home, is as memorable a character as I have read in years. Her relationship with her father is a high-tension electric wire and her searching is believable and raw and poignant. If you like fiction that moves you, that stretches you, that raises questions about love, family and what it is to be human, this book is for you.

— Chris Morrow

Wow! Just wow! What a powerful book! This novel is not for the faint of heart. The prose is evocative and visceral. It takes on some of our most taboo societal ills: abuse, sexual abuse, neglect. Turtle, a 14-year old girl is being raised by her father in a small coastal community in northern California. She is socially isolated and her father has ingrained in her a survivalist mentality. It stands her in good stead for all the turmoil to come in this story. — Shirley Cagle

This book is brutal. It is dark and twisted and painful to read, but at the same time you will not be able to put it down. It gives you so many reasons to root for Turtle. The want to see her see her escape from her horrible situation is enough to get you to the end. This book is not for the faint of heart. The further I get away from reading it the more I appreciate the subtle complexity of the writing, the impressive description, and strong characters. It is the kind of novel that makes you feel everything. — Molly Halpin

My Absolute Darling's 14-year-old Turtle is hardened by her experiences, but stays soft in all the right ways. While a story of trauma and the savagery people are capable of, at its center is a message of humanity. Turtle reminds us that it is not always about surviving the past so that we may create a future— sometimes the past must survive us. Equal parts gun powder and ocean mist, My Absolute Darling is both brutal and brilliant. — Hanna Yost

A perfect storm--this is one of those books you read that latches onto you and won't let go. For better or worse you won't forget the story of Turtle Alveston, a fourteen year old girl living on the brink of destruction. She's more broken than anyone realizes, and her unhealthy relationship with her father, as well as her relationship with everyone else, affects her much more than she allows herself to believe. This in point is what opens up a connection between her and us. Turtle feels real on every page.

This novel highlights the fact that some stories end with a mixed bag of both joy and pain, that life continues on after each one ends, and that their consequences will linger. I'd be shocked if this book doesn't become a film in the next three to four years. It will grip the average reader as much as the literary world. — Alex Bell

Anguish, horror and anger are firmly embedded in this tale of unimaginable terror made all the more startling by its graphic depictions. This is the story of Turtle a 14 year old girl living in strict isolation with her father & grandfather. She is the "Absolute Darling" of heroic inner strength. Though the violence in this book would under another writer's hand have been more than I could take, the shear beauty of the novel's construction and compelling language carried me through this amazing and important new work of fiction. — Maeve Noonan

My Absolute Darling is a family war story with one hell of a courageous heroine at its vortex. Turtle Alveston is unforgettable. Reading this novel will keep your shattered heart pounding through every last page - and you will be obsessed with getting there, though not so quickly as to miss any detail provided by this enormously talented author.

— Nancy Scheemaker

September 2017 Indie Next List

“I believe in great American novels, but not the Great American Novel. This is a Great American Novel: exquisitely lush language of the natural world; startlingly vivid characters; a global understanding of social context, in a particular place; and, in this case, steel-wire narrative tension stringing through the beautiful prose like piano wire. It is the book this year that I feel every American should read, because of its greatness and also because of its deep wrestling with issues of class, complacency, climate change, culture, and especially gender.”
— John Evans (M), DIESEL, A Bookstore, Oakland, CA




"Impossible to put down." --NPR

"A novel that readers will gulp down, gasping." --The Washington Post

"The word 'masterpiece' has been cheapened by too many blurbs, but My Absolute Darling absolutely is one." --Stephen King

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

Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. What follows is a harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle's escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero--and in the process, becomes ours as well.

Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving read that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.

About the Author

Gabriel Tallent was born in New Mexico and raised on the Mendocino coast by two mothers. He received his B.A. from Willamette University in 2010, and after graduation spent two seasons leading youth trail crews in the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest. Tallent lives in Salt Lake City.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780735211179
ISBN-10: 0735211175
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: August 29th, 2017
Pages: 432
Language: English
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