My Absolute Darling (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews

Such a raw, festering wound kind of read--when it got really bad, you just wanted to itch it away. Fourteen-year-old Turtle lives with her father, Martin, outside of town, in a remote area. Only her Grandpa lives anywhere near them, and she only sees him occasionally for a game of Cribbage. This is where Martin is able to craft Turtle the way he sees the world. He doesn't see much in the world that is good, except for Turtle, and she is everything to him. Or so he will lead you to believe with his words, his actions are a completely different matter. You will end up hating her father, but also, you will see the true paranoid brilliance in the monster that Gabriel Tallent created. As the Turtle unfolds the story for us, we are treated to brutal events that shape her life and we witness her survival instincts kick in as she begins understanding what the world could be as opposed to the one she knows. This is a gripping story I will never forget, not one single scene.

— Jason Kennedy

Not for the faint of heart, the subject is incest between a father and Turtle, now 14 years old. Turtle fortuitously connects with two boys her age and finally begins to question the relationship with her father. The characters are richly drawn and it is impossible not to root for the awakening of the young girl.


— Kay Wosewick

Read this with friends and have a nice fight about if it's a good book or not. Does it bring the nuances of violence to light or does it glorify rape? Is Turtle an amazing depiction of a girl at the hands of an abuser or is she a character in a lurid thriller? I, for one, found the book difficult but worthwhile in the intensity of what happens to Turtle -- because this is all really happening in our world and we haven't figured out a way to stop it all.

— Todd Wellman

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