My Absolute Darling: A Novel
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
NBCC JOHN LEONARD PRIZE FINALIST
ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES’S MOST NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2017
ONE OF THE WASHINGTON POST’S MOST NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2017
ONE OF NPR’S ‘GREAT READS’ OF 2017
A USA TODAY BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
AN AMAZON.COM BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
A BUSINESS INSIDER BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR
“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.
An Amazon Best Book of September 2017: There’s so much to admire in My Absolute Darling: acute emotional insight, precise and evocative writing about the natural world, and pacing worthy of an action movie. How can this possibly be a debut? But some people live up to their names, and Gabriel Tallent, whose first novel this is, writes with bravura more experienced authors can only envy. His story, which feels a little like a girl-power fairy tale come true, starts dark. Fourteen-year old Julia, called Turtle, or sometimes Kibble, lives with her paranoid, survivalist father in the wilds of Mendocino County. Their ruin of a house has boarded-up windows and “spindled wooden railings overgrown with climbing roses and poison oak.” If Turtle is that rose, then her father is the poison oak: his touch (and he touches Turtle) leads to trouble. But he’s taught his daughter to shoot and forage — she can “decipher” the woods, even at night — and those skills serve her well when she finally starts to free herself from his control. One of the delights of this novel is the way Tallent reveals another culture – another world, really – coexisting in Mendocino, where middle-aged women practice yoga naked and swear by “the goddess” while their sons joke about hippies reading Finnegans Wake to their peyote plants. These flashes of humor and evidence of the sometimes goofy pleasures of civilization are like beacons lighting the way to a better life for Turtle, if only she can make her way out of the woods. –Sarah Harrison Smith, Amazon Book Review