My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

Gabriel Tallent

My Absolute Darling

The cover of this new and very talked about novel does nothing to reveal the horrific content. There should be a blurb saying open with caution. If you choose to read it, you need to know what you’re in for.  You are in for violence like you may never have encountered before.  You are going to be very uncomfortable. You’ll experience mental, physical and sexual abuse. And incest. Yes. All that. And more. Did I  mention the anguish of dying animals? Don’t want to miss that.

So, why on God’s earth would I choose to read this book?To tell the truth, I did not want to. But the cover has graced a lot of publications that are well-respected. And the reviews have been raving of this new author.  Respected newspapers from England to San Francisco have written glowing reviews. And then I discovered a respected friend was reading it. So we decided I would finish the book and we would get together to talk about it. And that is the only reason I got to the last page. Still, I may have to hurt her.

I almost don’t know what to say. I respect the author’s writing.  The story is compelling. But so much is included in this novel that simply did not need to be. The lush prose that is being lauded from coast to coast is too much. Not all, but much.

Julia is 14- years-old. She’s living alone with her father in Mendacino, California on a large stretch of land near the luscious coast.  Her mom drowned and disappeared mysteriously some years ago. Her dad’s dad lives nearby. They call Julia Turtle. But her dad mostly refers to her as Kibble. I don’t know why. She seems almost feral. Each morning Turtle makes her way to the fridge and throws down  raw eggs straight from the carton.  Then she tosses dad a beer. That’s how they start their day. He walks her to the school bus every day even though she reminds him he does not have to. In school, Turtle believes she’s stupid. The names she calls herself are degrading and filthy. And we find that she’s learned this manner of speaking and thought from dear old dad. Slut, whore, bitch, c$%%^^. Yes, isn’t this just super.

The abuse begins immediately. I could easily have put the book down after the first chapter. That’s how disturbed I felt. But I decided that I must be the only person who could not see the redeeming quality of the story. Then I began paying close attention to the prose.  The descriptions of the flora and fauna went on and on. I could see potential here, but it was mostly over the top.

Okay, I have a problem with a man writing in the voice of a 14- year-old girl who is being abused by her father. It’s not a love affair. It’s abuse. It’s about a tortured soul. It’s child abuse. Some of the descriptions  are not what a girl would think or say. That’s my humble opinion.  But I feel it in my gut.

When Turtle becomes friends with two boys from her school I can feel the tide turning. I am fearful for these two normal boys who are truly good people. Didn’t expect to find this in this story. Turtle finally sees what the real world is like. Everyone does not live like she does. And so, she begins to prepare for her escape.

I guess you could rename this book Survival because it sure is about that. Or you could call it Revenge. I just read a wonderful novel that comes out in February about abuse. And it is also about revenge. Novels about abuse can be done without horrific content.

The author lives in Utah. He has been writing this novel for over eight years. You can tell he knows the area of Mendocino and the coast.


Gabriel Tallent

That’s where he grew up. He’s most at home outside and he has extensive knowledge of the wilderness and this shines through. He’s currently working on his next novel.

Guns, slaughter, self-hate. I dare you to read this novel.  I would like to hear your thoughts. You may never feel the same.

I borrowed this book from the library. Read it in two days.  Is published by Riverhead Books.


7 thoughts on “My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

  1. I cannot tell you how very much I appreciated reading this post. I am about half way through the book, having purchased for exactly the same reasons that you did – lofty reviews by highly regarded publications. (In hindsight, I should have thought twice after reading a review in either Time or my local Minneapolis paper that quoted Steven King as saying something to the effect of “it is by far, my favorite read of the year!” Good God . . . Why didn’t I heed my inner voice after that one!!!

    So, I have quit the book four times so far . . . And, now as you said . . . Am at yet another point of tossing it and see a glimmer of hope. Can’t decide . . . .and, unlike you, I BOUGHT the book and am trying to decide if I want to throw away the $$ and the book. (I usually buy the hard bound, and almost always pass it on to several others, which helps me justify the cost . . .but in this case, I don’t know who I would give this book to!!). Hmmm

    Thanks so much for you very insightful commentaries. Doubt that I have taken the time to tell you that before. I so enjoy reading your articles. Kay Botko (Minneapolis and Naples)

    Kay Botko Sent from Ipad


  2. I am so relieved to hear your thoughts. It is so hard to admit to not enjoying a novel that most people are raving about. However, I think I owe it to my devoted readers to let them know what they are up against. Then they can decide without feeling guilty. Don’t feel badly if you don’t finish. But since you’ve gotten this far, you just might wish to continue. There will surely be lots of discussion.

  3. I thank you for sparing me this book! I love to read – and have read some pretty strong stuff – but I have my limits. Like your previous commenter, I sometimes have to force myself to finish a book that is too offensive. For example, I couldn’t complete The Underground Railroad because the descriptions of the torture of the slaves was so vivid and vile. But, my point here is that there really are many beautiful stories out there. Your reviews usually steer me in the right direction. Thank you!

  4. I told you it was rough. It made me a little sic. Mostly because Turtle also displays a weird affection for her father. It’s so cringy and then that new character is brought in, you know the one, I just about lost it. I could not imagine the situation getting worse but I was wrong.

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