Review: My Absolute Darling

My Absolute Darling

My Absolute Darling
By Gabriel Tallent
Riverhead Books, 9780735211179, August 2017, 432pp.

*Trigger Warning: Child Abuse/Sexual Abuse*

The Short of It:

An impossibly brave girl, her abusive father and the relationship they have between them will keep you turning the pages but it’s brutal and raw and gut-wrenching at times.

The Rest of It:

The title might suggest affection, but it’s the twisted “affection” that this father displays for his fourteen-old that will have you squirming every time he enters the room. Friends, this was a tough read. Why so tough? Because as you might not guess, the girl, known as Turtle, loves her father deeply. She realizes at a very young age that they are both damaged and there is a beauty in that. A beauty that is constantly evaluated as these two co-exist in a town, that for the most part, turns a blind eye to what is going on.

How can two damaged people survive without one another? Is it even possible? That is the question and the author does a very good job of presenting the love/hate relationship that these two have. I actually caught myself pitying the father at one point. And for every ounce of pity I had for him, I had the same amount of anger for Turtle. I caught myself putting some of the blame on her and then I’d put the book down and sit there shaking my head over it.

This author wrings all the feelings out of you. For those who have read the book, I’m not sure the ending worked for me but thinking about it, I’m not sure what exactly I’d change if I could.

As I noted at the top of this review, this book could be a trigger for anyone who suffered from child abuse or sexual abuse of any kind and it’s not clearly noted anywhere in the blurbs I’ve read.

My Absolute Darling has what I would call one of the most complex protagonists ever. Turtle is damn near feral but she’s so vulnerable and fragile too. If you can stomach the abuse that she suffers, then you will be rewarded with beautiful prose. At times I was reminded of A Little Life which gut-punched me over and over again.

An important read, but read with care.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via Edelweiss.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

19 thoughts on “Review: My Absolute Darling”

  1. Thank you for this review. I am going to be reading this one soon. Another friend also likened it to A LITTLE LIFE. Tough stuff.

  2. Great review TI! From what little I read, maybe 25 pages, I just wasn’t prepared for the sexual abuse so early on and I just didn’t like Turtle in those few pages which sounds awful to say but caused me to put the book down and Ill probably not pick it back up. I loved A Little Life so much and what I think that author did differently and brilliantly was allow us to become invested in the characters before she hit us with the abuse. Love the new blog graphics and layout!

    1. I can totally relate to your comment about not liking Turtle. I didn’t either, not really. There is one part of the story where I started to like her but I feel like it came too late. She is, however, one of the toughest characters I’ve come across. I just find it strange that many of the blurbs and reviews I’ve read don’t mention the abuse and it’s front and center throughout the entire story. And then there is one part when I became entirely unglued. If you want to know what hit me like a brick, let me know and I will send a private message.

  3. This was an editor’s pick at BEA so I got a copy but, since then, I’ve heard several people say they had to put the book down for a few days while they read it because it’s so gut wrenching. I think I’ll have to be in the right mood to pick it up.

  4. Interesting. I know of someone else who didn’t like the novel. She never connected to it and called it one of the over-hyped books of the summer. As for me, I don’t think I would shy away from reading it, but I don’t know if I would go out and find a copy to read either. Unless it makes the Tournament of Books list next year. Then I am guaranteed to find a copy.

    1. I can see this one duking it out in the ToB. It’s not a book to love. You can’t love it. No way, no how. But you can’t ignore the writing or the character development. I quibbled over some of the story. The ending, mainly and I questioned why certain things happened the way they did.

  5. Nice review Ti — of what seems like a really tough story. I don’t think I could read it, though I did list it on my site for August books. I’m glad you read it though — so I could know more about it.

    1. If you aren’t too sensitive to the subject matter, then I say read it because the writing is beautiful but I think a lot of people go into it not realized what exactly its about. The blurbs skirt around it.

    1. And what makes it doubly hard is that they both have this obsessive love for one another. It’s cringy!! She is his absolute darling and you cringe every time he says it.

    1. It’s hard for many reasons. The subject matter is tough on its own. But I didn’t care for the main character all that much because she makes some pretty interesting decisions. I also didn’t care for how the story wrapped up but the writing won out. It’s good.

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