At 14, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall; That chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it; That her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him. She doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; Why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see; Why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done. And what her daddy will do when he finds out… Sometimes strength is not the same as courage. Sometimes leaving is not the only way to escape. Sometimes surviving isn’t enough.
Did you love The Marsh King’s Daughter? Well, this is the hardcore version.
This is probably one of the hardest reviews I’m ever going to write. Because My Absolute Darling is no ordinary novel. This is not the kind of book I usually read. It’s not an easy book, by any means. Some will fall helplessly in love with it, others will struggle and abandon it. It’s that kind of book.
I don’t want to say too much, but I can assure you this book is brutal and twisted. It’s about Turtle’s coming of age… but this is not your classic young adult tale. Turtle’s childhood and early adolescence has been different from anyone else’s. Her father, Martin, is physically, sexually and psychologically abusing her and she’s conflicted. She loves him and hates him at the same time. He’s her father, after all. Her saviour, her only world.
The writing by Gabriel Tallent was wonderful. Hard to read, definitely, but gorgeous nevertheless. We follow Turtle’s voice throughout the novel, and her thoughts are devastating, hilarious at times, raw and complicated. She’s not particularly nice to anyone, especially women, but how can we possibly hold that against her?
I admit I struggled more than once, but I couldn’t stop reading or thinking about it either. I just wanted Turtle to be free. I wanted her to realize that other teenagers live different lives. That she deserved to live surrounded by love and kindness. That she was strong enough to rebel against Martin.
My favorite scenes were the ones featuring Turtle’s interactions with the two boys, Brett and Jacob, and her teacher, Anna. They were so genuinely kind and selfless that the contrast was even more palpable. Plus, Brett and Jacob’s dialogue scenes were so funny to read. Which was kind of a relief after all the terrible things that were happening.
Did I enjoy this book? I’d have to say no, enjoy is not the right word. Would I read it again? Definitely not. BUT IT’S SUCH A GREAT NOVEL. Read at your own risk.
Netgalley, 4th Estate, 2017