Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel My Absolute Darling is completely repulsive. This book made my skin crawl and my stomach turn. The events are unspeakable and horrifying. But there is also great beauty, love, and strength. When I started reading the book, I didn’t know what I would think but by the end I was captivated, on the edge of my seat, and I could not put it down!
I won’t dig into the actual plot details of MAD because obvi book reviews with #spoilers are the worst. All you need to know is that the story centers on teenager Turtle Alveston, who lives on the Northern California coast with her abusive (in every way) father – a real POS. In MAD we get a view into Turtles disturbing and sad world. One of my favorite parts of the book is Tallent’s descriptions of the Mendocino landscape. The detail and specificity were breathtaking; he painted a brilliant picture of the wilderness of Northern California. It truly shows that Tallent has a great reverence and knowledge of the setting, you can’t fake that!
And then there is Turtle. Oh, Turtle! She is a badass and completely heartbreaking; a heroine like none I have ever experienced. At first I found it very difficult to comprehend her as a character, I literally couldn’t identify with any aspect of her life or personality. I was always rooting for her but it wasn’t until I really got into the book that I grew to understand her motivations and her actions. There is a lot of complexity in this 14 year old and it really was special to get to know her throughout the book. Her strength, inspite of everything against her, was mind-blowing.
Despite it’s beautiful writing, thought provoking characters, and fresh plot; I don’t think everyone will enjoy MAD. It’s rough, like very rough, like I needed to put it down every once in a while just to process what I was reading. Most people (myself included) often try to avoid the darker side of life and this book puts it front and center. But overall I will recommend this book. It requires effort to read, but the best and most important things require effort.
- Title: My Absolute Darling
- Author: Gabriel Tallent
- Published: August 29, 2017 (Riverhead Books)
- Genre: Fiction
- Booky Nooky Rating: * * * ½