Date finished: January 23, 2019

Rating: ★★★★

My Absolute Darling, Gabriel Tallent

“You look like a girl raised by wolves. You know that?”

Turtle Alveston is a complex protagonist dealing with issues ranging from self-identity and growing up to abuse, both physical and mental. She’s 14 years old and already decades more mature than her peers, a tragic side effect of which is she doesn’t understand how to communicate with them. She’s bitter, angry, friendless, and confused, and her father and grandfather (the only people she talks to for much of the book) have their own problems.

Turtle’s father, Martin, is the center of Turtle’s world and is easy to hate, but Tallent draws a compelling picture of her struggle to break away from him. He’s the rock in her life, and, though he abuses and rapes her incessantly, she can’t picture her life without him and is terrified of the possibility.

Tallent uses the most artistic language to describe the Alveston home and land in remote Northern California, but also to depict things like rape, suicide, and amputation. The result is an unforgettable narrative in a similar vein to Educated and The Glass Castle.

I gave this one four stars because Tallent often describes Turtle in ways only a man would. She’s a beautiful character — smart, strong, damaged, and compelling — but the thick layers of physical description and third-person narration often get in the way of her shining through.

Photo courtesy @bookmarkedbya (Instagram)

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