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
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER LA TIMES BOOK PRIZE FINALIST NBCC JOHN LEONARD PRIZE FINALIST ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES'S MOST NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2017 ONE OF THE WASHINGTON POST’S MOST NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2017 ONE OF NPR’S ‘GREAT READS’ OF 2017 A USA TODAY BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR AN AMAZON.COM BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR A BUSINESS INSIDER BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR "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.
"My Absolute Darling is a novel that readers will gulp down, gasping…Tallent [is a] prodigiously talented new writer.” —The Washington Post
"A searing story of abuse and damaged people, but also about resilience, strength and survival. Much recommended." —Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times
"With its unconventional heroine and unflinching portrayal of an abused girl’s fight to save herself, My Absolute Darling seems poised to become the breakout debut of the year." —The New York Times
“My Absolute Darling is Gabriel Tallent's first novel, and no less than Stephen King has called it a "masterpiece" to rank with To Kill A Mockingbird and Catch-22.” —NPR
“Our generation’s next beloved literary heroine....this is one of the most important books you'll pick up this decade.” —Harper's Bazaar
"A gripping introduction to a seriously brave little girl... My Absolute Darling is an affecting read but also an important one." —USA Today
“Impressively, this is…a novel of great beauty, filled with lush evocations of the woods.” —Wall Street Journal
"Make some time to read Gabriel Tallent’s My Absolute Darling…The sentences are beautiful, the language spare and tough." —Sam Sifton in The New York Times
“A gripping read, written in beautiful, brutal prose ... My Absolute Darling is a Great American Novel for the increasingly isolationist, fractionalised and disenchanted contemporary era.” –Financial Times
“A stunningly poetic psychological thriller.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
"There's no shortage of things to admire in My Absolute Darling —it's a devastating and powerful debut from a writer who's almost certain to have a wonderful career ahead of him." —NPR.org
“The best drop-everything debut…if you loved To Kill A Mockingbird’s Scout Finch, you’ll be into Turtle Alveston.”–Glamour
“A brilliant and haunting debut.” —People
“Lush and vivid. You’ll read it with your stomach in your shoes, rooting for [Turtle] the whole time.”—Marie Claire “[An] engrossing read.” —InStyle
“Captures a compelling young heroine.” —Vanity Fair
“A major American debut that incorporates psychological realism of the highest order, juxtaposed with nature writing that at times is so lyrical, you might as well be reading poetry.” —The Houston Chronicle
“Stunning … contemplative and heart-wrenching.”–Los Angeles Review of Books
“Extraordinarily unsettling and ambitious…an amazing debut." —The San Francisco Chronicle
“Brilliant and terrifying, told in expansive, wild and bold prose…Reading this book is like watching an electrical storm, both beautiful and dangerous.” —The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“[A] glaring, gorgeous book… My Absolute Darling sounds primal alarms with an urgent contemporary voice.”–Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
"Beautifully written and emotionally gripping… My Absolute Darling is a strange hybrid of a book, part gorgeous nature writing, part psychologically astute family drama." —Tampa Bay Times
“Explosive…There are many elements of this story we would rather not believe — all so convincingly rendered that we can’t help but believe them.” —The Boston Globe
“With its excellent prose and fast-paced plot, it is a spirited debut.” —Dallas News
“My Absolute Darling is an absolute triumph.” —The National
“Loved every minute.” —Newsday
“The year’s must-read novel...Tallent in this debut makes an old story — the drama of coming of age — feel original and full of youthful power." —The Times (London)
“An incandescent novel with an extraordinary, unforgettable heroine, both deeply contemplative and utterly thrilling.” —The Guardian
“Ferocious, heart-breaking …Tallent combines gorgeous passages about the wilderness Turtle knows well and a steady beat of dramatic tension in this smashing debut.” —BBC
“[A] gripping, vivid debut…Readers will root for Turtle as she sets out to escape and be absorbed by Tallent’s stunning descriptions of nature.” —RealSimple
“The cinematic pace of My Absolute Darling will have you physically reacting...as you barrel to the end of this incredibly redemptive, satisfying book.” —goop
"Easily one of my favorite debut novels of the past decade." —LitHub
“Gabriel Tallent showcases incredible emotional empathy and nature writing in this novel about a young woman named Turtle, who’s my new favorite character in all of fiction.” –Outside Online
“To read [My Absolute Darling] is to become an evangelist for it.” —The Millions
"Philosophical but without pretense, the novel proves a fascinating examination of personal strength… by allowing Turtle to define her own reality.” —Paste
"Cathartic and spine-tingling as hell." —Vox
"Turtle is the strong, resilient heroine we didn’t know we needed, and you’ll fall head over heels in love with My Absolute Darling.” —HelloGiggles
“A fearless adventure tale that's as savvy about internal emotional storms as it is about wrangling with family and nature… A powerful, well-turned story about abuse, its consequences, and what it takes to survive it.” —Kirkus, starred review
“Lucidly written, both heartbreaking and heartfelt, this book is ultimately affirmative without the slightest sentimentality, and it’s remarkable.” –Library Journal, starred review
“Remarkable not only for its characterization but also for its minute examination of the natural world that Turtle inhabits. So vivid is the gorgeously realized setting that it becomes itself a major character in a novel that lingers in the mind long after the final page.” –Booklist, starred review
“Emotionally fraught… Turtle’s story is harrowingly visceral.” —Publishers Weekly
"There are books we like well enough to recommend, but there are a very few... that we remember forever. To my own shortlist I can now add My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent...This book is ugly, beautiful, horrifying, and uplifting." —Stephen King
“Every scene in this astonishing novel packs so much tension, so much insight, such beautiful prose and such masterful handling of detail, I simply could not stop reading.” —Phil Klay, National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment