One of the most talked about books this autumn, and my favorite, was My Absolute Darling (Riverhead, $27), by Gabriel Tallent. Shocking and unsettling, at times difficult to read, the novel follows fourteen-year-old Turtle Alveston, who feels more at home in nature than she does with her survivalist and damaged father, as she searches for freedom and fights for her soul. Roaming the woods one night, wondering if her father would be able to find her, she meets two lost teenage boys and guides them safely out. And that is the moment she starts questioning her home life. The way Tallent brings you steadily into Turtle’s mind makes you almost feel her pain. He manages to capture her deepest thoughts, her internal struggle, her will to survive. Obviously suffering from Stockholm syndrome, she debates with herself over whether to stay or leave, doubting her worth every step of the way. But she fights and she survives. She is the kind of girl, brave and determined, with whom readers are almost duty-bound to fall in love. Tallent grew up in Mendocino and spent a lot of time outside. His love for the region is evident in Turtle’s view of the place and Mendocino itself is a strong character in the book. This is Tallent’s debut novel. And what a remarkable debut it is!
My Absolute Darling - Gabriel Tallent