4th Estate Books August 2017
At fourteen, Turtle Alveston knows the use of every gun on her wall; that chaos is coming and only the strong will survive it; that her daddy loves her more than anything else in this world. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep her with him.
She doesn’t know why she feels so different from the other girls at school; why the line between love and pain can be so hard to see; why making a friend may be the bravest and most terrifying thing she has ever done; and what her daddy will do when he finds out…
My Absolute Darling caused quite a stir when it was published, references to incest and comparisons to A Little Life intrigued me. It was a Goldsboro Books, Book of the Month so I bought my signed and numbered edition and finally now I have gotten around to reading it.
A strange story to say the least, Turtle and her father lead an isolated existence in a remote part of California. Turtle does go to school, but she has no friends and struggles academically. Her relationship with her father is characterised by an intense love and co dependency combined with incest, abuse and control. This isn’t particularly easy to read about and the book I think is best described as an exploration of this intense and abusive father / daughter relationship and how harmful this is.
The writing at times I found to be rather abstract. Later as Turtle makes a friend in Jacob, the plot formulates more and the writing becomes more concrete. Prior to this it is much about Turtle’s life with her father, learning to shoot and adhering to his bizarre rituals and lifestyle.
If I am honest I was a little underwhelmed by this novel. Comparisons to A Little Life didn’t work for me, with that being one of my favourite books. Both are stories about significant sexual abuse but that was where the similarities in my opinion. While the character of Turtle did grow on me as the story progressed, I can’t say I was hugely invested in her. Her personality was mostly evident when she was with Jacob but the difficulties for her in having a friend and her father’s all encompassing love and control made for a sad story.
At over 400 pages this wasn’t a short read, the writing is in the third person and as previously mentioned at times very abstract and I found it a tad rambling, to the extent that occasionally I struggled to decipher what was being said, not a significant issue as this was often in descriptive parts but slightly annoying and I wasn’t sure if it was a problem with my concentration or the writing.
When I don’t love such a hyped book I do wonder if I have missed something, especially with comparisons to A Little Life. Have you read My Absolute Darling? I’d be really interested to know your thoughts on this popular but dividing book.