Review of My Absolute Darling
This debut novel from an American author has been praised by the likes of Stephen King, Joanna Cannon and Kevin Powers. It’s a powerful story set in California, which follows the life of 14-year-old Julia, known as Turtle, who lives alone with her disturbed and violent father Martin, since the disappearance of her mother when she was very young. Martin is a survivalist, and he’s brought Turtle up to be one too – testing her on her gun skills every day. He’s deeply misogynistic, and has also passed on this distrust and hatred of women to his daughter, who is a loner at her school.
"Turtle loves her father deeply because he is all she’s ever known, but she’s also aware that he can be violent and abusive"
Things begin to change when Turtle encounters two boys lost in the nearby wilderness, which she can navigate perfectly. Jacob and Brett are close friends full of banter and humour, and are enchanted and amazed by Turtle’s unusual demeanour and survival skills. But Turtle knows that Martin will be appalled to discover that she’s made new friends, particularly two male friends, and resolves to keep them secret from him.
The relationship between Martin and Turtle is complicated and fractious, and even her Grandpa, who lives nearby in a caravan, knows that something is wrong in the way she is being raised. Turtle loves her father deeply because he is all she’s ever known, but she’s also aware that he can be violent and abusive. He doesn’t want her to care for anyone but himself, and feels threatens by her burgeoning independence. It’s only when she begins to build her relationship with Jacob that she realises that she could have a life beyond her father’s walls, and without him. But what will it take for Turtle to find the courage to confront her father and escape his terrible influence? Turtle can deal with her father’s abuse, but can she protect others from his violent nature?
Written in a style humming with tension, suppressed feelings and motivations, this novel is not for the faint-hearted. It examines the insidious nature of abuse, and the way abusers can manipulate their victims to become emotionally dependent on them. It also evokes a deep sense of place, as the plants and animals of the rural, wild environment Turtle inhabits are described in a way which mirrors Turtle’s own wild character. The threatening suspense underlying the story places the novel in the territory of a thriller, but it can easily be enjoyed by those who would not usually read a crime story. The menace comes not only from Martin, but from the landscape, as Jacob and Turtle are washed up and isolated on a remote, sea-lashed island and must struggle for survival.
Turtle is a refreshing heroine, uncompromising in her attitude to do what she wants and what she thinks is right, as she genuinely does not care how others see her or what they think of her. My Absolute Darling is a gripping and memorable debut from an author who surely has a successful literary career ahead of him.
Written by Ruth, Marketing