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Tuesday, January 16, 2018

My Absolute Darling (2017) by Gabriel Tallent


Book Review
My Absolute Darling (2017)
 by Gabriel Tallent

   This debut novel from Northern California born author Gabriel Tallent packs an emotional wallop- the kind of wallop that endears an author to a critical audience and potentially alienates the broader popular audience (we're talking about the popular audience for literary fiction here, not the broader "reading public.")  It's the kind of book that gets people talking, and piques the interest of potential audience members because of the strength of reaction that it evokes from those that have read it.  In short, My Absolute Darling has all the makings of a career establishing hit.  At the same time, the subject matter is NC-17 and explicitly deals with sexual subjects that are still, vaguely, beyond the pale of polite discourse.

   Julia "Turtle" Alveston is the only daughter of Martin Alveston, a Mendocino county recluse.  Martin mixes a love of automated weapons with a healthy distrust for authority figures.  He is also indisputably mentally ill, in ways that become apparent almost from jump street. Mom is nowhere to be found, allegedly having disappeared "diving for abalone."  People actually do die that way, but it seems clear that it is equally likely that Martin killed Mom and covered up with the abalone story.

  Turtle is torn between a real love for her father, who has his good moments, and an almost feverish desire to escape, tempered by her knowledge that "Daddy" as she calls him, would not take her departure well.  Further discussion of the plot risks spoilers, but I found the location detail (the wild Mendocino coast) richly observed, as well as the detail about what it actually means to be a wacko survivalist, or at least the child of one.  Rest be assured, Turtle knows her way around a firearm, and she is also chock full of survival skills... of all types.  Ultimately it becomes clear that Turtle is the only real survivalist in the family but the ride to get that point is so harrowing that it might turn off the weak of heart among potential audience member.s

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