My Absolute Darling
A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-year-old girl's heart-stopping fight for her own soul.
Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At fourteen, she roams the woods along the northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous: Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.
Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. The reader tracks Turtle's escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, and watches, heart in throat, as she struggles to become her own hero--and in the process, becomes ours as well.
Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving read that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.
"There are books we like well enough to recommend, but there are a very few—To Kill a Mockingbird, Catch-22, The Things They Carried—that we remember forever. To my own shortlist I can now add My Absolute Darling, by Gabriel Tallent. Fourteen-year-old Turtle Alveston is a brilliantly rendered creation, and her father is the most terrifyingly believable human monster to inhabit the pages of a novel since Harry Powell in The Night of the Hunter. This book is ugly, beautiful, horrifying, and uplifting." —Stephen King
“I read My Absolute Darling in one sitting, well past midnight, despite an early-morning flight: the book is that impossible to put down. Gabriel Tallent depicts Turtle's battle for her independence--body, mind, and soul--with brutal honesty and overwhelming tenderness. The result is a heartrending debut that will shock, then shake, then inspire you.” —Celeste Ng, New York Times-bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere and Everything I Never Told You
“It is unreal how vivid and compelling this book is. Turtle Alveston is one of the most vibrant characters I've come across in a long time, and every scene in this astonishing novel packs so much tension, so much insight, such beautiful prose and such masterful handling of detail, I simply could not stop reading.” —Phil Klay, National Book Award-winning author of Redeployment
“Every once in awhile there comes along a fictional character—Jane Eyre, Kunta Kinte, Jude St. Francis—whose plight and determination to overcome subsumes the reader so completely, we actually feel ourselves missing him or her after the final page. Turtle, the adolescent protagonist of Gabriel Tallent's debut novel, is that and so much more. For her unconventional wisdom and indomitable inner strength, and for Tallent's descriptive dexterity, which makes everything from Turtle's physical anguish to the smells and sensations of the lush California wilderness around her leap off the page—this is one of the most important books you'll pick up this decade.” —Harper's Bazaar
“One of EW's favorite books of the year so far…an unputdownable coming-of-age novel.” —Entertainment Weekly
“[An] engrossing read.” —InStyle
“In his ferocious, heart-breaking first novel, Tallent deciphers the twisted relationship between Turtle Alveston and her rugged loner father, Martin…Tallent combines gorgeous passages about the wilderness Turtle knows well and a steady beat of dramatic tension in this smashing debut.” —"Between the Lines", BBC
“[A] gripping, vivid debut…Readers will root for Turtle as she sets out to escape and be absorbed by Tallent’s stunning descriptions of nature.” —RealSimple
"Easily one of my favorite debut novels of the past decade." —Michele Filgate, LitHub
“To read [My Absolute Darling] is to become an evangelist for it.” —The Millions
"Turtle is the strong, resilient heroine we didn’t know we needed, and you’ll fall head over heels in love with My Absolute Darling.” —HelloGiggles
“You’re going to be seeing this one everywhere pretty soon… a really remarkable tale about a remarkable young woman.” —BookRiot
“[Tallent has] written a fearless adventure tale that's as savvy about internal emotional storms as it is about wrangling with family and nature… A powerful, well-turned story about abuse, its consequences, and what it takes to survive it.” —Kirkus, starred review
“Few coming-of-age stories deliver the sheer lyrical power of Tallent’s debut … Lucidly written, both heartbreaking and heartfelt, this book is ultimately affirmative without the slightest sentimentality, and it’s remarkable.” –Library Journal, starred review
“Turtle is an extraordinary character whose thoughts and actions enliven the pages of Tallent’s remarkable first novel—remarkable not only for its characterization but also for its minute examination of the natural world that Turtle inhabits. So vivid is the gorgeously realized setting that it becomes itself a major character in a novel that lingers in the mind long after the final page.” –Booklist, starred review
“Emotionally fraught… Turtle’s story is harrowingly visceral.” —Publishers Weekly
Gabriel Tallent was born in New Mexico and raised on the Mendocino coast by two mothers. He received his B.A. from Willamette University in 2010, and after graduation spent two seasons leading youth trail crews in the backcountry of the Pacific Northwest. Tallent lives in Salt Lake City.