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.
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