10 October 2017
“She is still a prisoner of her childhood; attempting to create a new life, she re-encounters the trauma.”
----Judith Lewis Herman
Gabriel Tallent, a Mexican author, has penned an extremely heart wrenching and horrifying, debut young adult contemporary fiction called, My Absolute Darling that centers around a young teenage girl, living with her crack head father, who teaches her about guns and shooting targets in the morning after her school and rapes her almost every other night, although the young protagonist, is clever and brave enough to get out of this terrifying life of hers, yet her emotions don't let her to, but her life drastically changes, when her grandfather dies suspiciously, her father pulls her out of school, where her teachers are worried about her lifestyle, and her father brings home another young girl.
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. The reader tracks Turtle's escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, and watches, heart in throat, as she struggles to become her own hero--and in the process, becomes ours as well.
Turtle, a 14-year old teenager, lives with her father, Martin, in an American countryside somewhere near the woods, and the condition of the household is very, very grim. After Turtle's mother's death, Martin has been raising up his only daughter all by himself, although occasionally, his father, suspects about the little girl's upbringing in a wrong environment, yet Martin managed in every possible way to provide for her daughter, and that left him lonely, hard-edged and sometimes a crackhead, as he philosophized about climate change, life and guns. Martin is obsessed about guns and he never once fails to inculcate his passion for guns into his daughter's heart, as right after her school, he trained her how to shoot targets and everything about guns, sometimes, helped her in studies in a rather rough way.
There is also a dark side to Turtle's strange and uncanny childhood, and that is, rape, almost every other night, she is raped by her own father. And even though Turtle knows that she can escape it, yet she stayed put, due to the heavy baggage of emotional attachment towards her own father. And that made Turtle very brutish towards her peers. Although life changed in a bad way, when her grandfather dies who always suspected about Martin and Turtle, and her father pulls her out of the school. Even though, she is having fun with her new found friend, Jacob and his clean and normal life style, still Turtle doesn't see any hope as his father brings along another young teenage girl. Can Turtle escape him?
I know, after reading the review, you might end up saying that my review is biased, because of the unnecessary hype with elegant titles like "Most talked debut fiction of 2017" and so on. But trust me, once you read this book, you will understand what the literary world and Stephen King too is positively ranting about this particular book. Yes, I agree, that the story line isn't that original, as its too "been-there-read-that" kind, but the way the author has represented it and especially, twisted the story is such a sadistic yet astounding manner with a thriller playing out subtly on its backdrop, that you will fall for it with all your heart and mind. And thank god, the author has not involved any tried tropes and cliches to pen this moving rape-victim survivor story. Yes its my favorite novel from this year and I'm glad that I got an opportunity to review it.
Firstly the author has portrayed the countryside with woods and rivers so brilliantly and vividly that each and every scene in such a back ground comes alive right before the eyes of the readers. Not only that, the author has arrested the aura of such a wild countryside by depicting its smells to flora to the climate to its people to its roads to everything, that is bound to teleport the readers right in the middle of such a location.
The writing style of the author is fresh, and eloquent, that syncs well with a tightly held and well researched plot, that is laced and layered with deep, dark emotions that will at times move the author or will left them terrified to their very core. The narrative is realistic and often horrifying enough to give a creepy feeling. The sadness, darkness and disgust are what makes the tale so much empowering and enlightening. The pacing is really fast, as I found myself rushing and breezing through the pages of this book, in order to learn about Turtle's fate, that the author has painted in a thoughtful yet unforeseeable manner towards his readers.
Told from the perspective of a 14 year old girl, this appealing voice will imprint into the hearts and souls of the readers. Turtle's portrayal is raw and honest, and her apt voice will resonate with victims who have underwent through the same thing. Her damaged yet brave soul is what will make her an epitome in the eyes of the young readers. Her strive and struggle towards escape and freedom yet dealing with the emotions that hold her back to her father is quite sensitively depicted. Not only that, Martin's character is also very much well developed, in a way that the readers will form a love-hate relationship with him just like Turtle did. Why love-hate? Because of his back story that is painful and the author has put enough justifications to his tormenting nature, how he turned into a vile and dominating monster towards his own daughter, and how his philosophies spoke more about a concerned man. Rest of the supporting cast are also etched in an interesting manner.
In a nutshell, this is a must-read book and once you read it, you will know all about its hype, that it is actually true. So don't dare to miss one of the best debut books of 2017.