My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent My Absolute Darling: A Novel: 9780735211179: Tallent, Gabriel:  Books

Turtle has been living a very self-contained existence for all of her 14 years of life. It’s been pretty much just her and Martin, her father, with a weekly visit to play Cribbage with her Grandpa. Except for going to school, Turtle has been living mostly off the grid, and Martin’s obsession with survival has her ensuring that her guns are always clean and her guard is always up. And while she feels incompetent because of her academic struggles, she feels little about how she is perceived socially – that is, until she meets 2 lost boys in the woods, who ultimately help her every bit as much as she helps them.

This is an utterly gripping, but utterly disturbing novel about how trauma can be experienced and passed down from one generation to the next.  We are in Turtle’s head as she withstands her recurrent abuse at the hands of her father, and we deeply feel compassion for the simultaneous love and hate she feels toward him. There are so many opportunities she has to escape and yet she returns to his overpowering grip. It is a classic abusive relationship, where the abuser convinces the abused that they have no way out.  

The writing is razor-sharp and keeps the reader on edge throughout.  It is impossible to put this one down. We are with Turtle, rooting for her, holding our breath, feeling her awkwardness, and reeling from her anger toward the hard, hard world she inhabits. We exhale when we meet her 2 new friends, as they banter mindlessly and playfully, in such stark contrast to anything she has ever known. And we cannot stop turning the pages to find out how far she will have to go to survive.  

This book is not for the feint of heart, but it is a wildly suspenseful read and an important insight into the mindset of a child abused.