Tag Archives: Family

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.

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Review: The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields

The Barrowfields
By Phillip Lewis
Hogarth Press, Hardcover, 9780451495648, March 2017, 368pp.

The Short of It:

A father and son story but really a story about family relationships and what it means to come home.

The Rest of It:

Henry Aster’s father returns to the small Appalachian town where he grew up and moves his family into a house with a past. The dark, immense home was once the scene of a grisly murder involving young children. Its looming presence foreshadowing the unraveling of the family to come.

From the description it sounds like a ghost story and maybe it is but not the kind you’d be expecting. This story focuses on the relationship between father and son, missed-opportunities, and at its heart, how we process grief and loss.

After a terrible loss, Henry’s father, a brilliant man trying to reinvent himself as a writer, struggles with what he’s been dealt. The entire family struggles with him but in different ways. Instead of coming together, they push each other away and it’s incredibly heartbreaking to witness.

There is a lot of good to be had in this novel. The writing is lovely but the Asters are readers so there are plenty of literary references that I jotted down. I love when books mention other books. But what I really loved was the slow build of what eventually causes the family to fall apart. There is a lot of tension in this novel which made the page turns go that much faster.

However, one section of the novel strayed from the main story which seemed a little out of left field but I was very happy to see how it fit into the story as a whole once I got to the end of the book. The final pages are gold. I reread them many times and loved them to pieces.

One of my favorite books of all time is A Separate Peace by John Knowles and although The Barrowfields is nothing like that book in story, the “coming-of-age” aspect of this novel reminds me a lot of A Separate Peace and yes, maybe even the main character reminds me of it, too.

I say, read it.

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