It’s been one of the most talked about books this year, hailed as the “Debut of 2017” with even Stephen King blurbing on its cover, “The word ‘masterpiece’ has been cheapened by too many blurbs, but My Absolute Darling absolutely is one.” But the truth is, while Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel is very well-written and gripping, it is not an easy read. It is a harrowing, bleak story that will make you squirm in many passages, much like anyone familiar with Hanya Yanagihara’s stupendous achievement A Little Life will understand. Yanagihara’s novel was a beautiful, heart-wrenching tale of love and friendship that made it to the Man Booker shortlist, but its brutal passages on abuse were difficult to read and yet at the same time one could not put it down.
My Absolute Darling centres around fourteen-year-old Turtle Alveston, who lives with her father Martin in an isolated old house in Mendocino, California. Her father believes there’s an apocalypse coming and makes her learn to use a gun since the age of 6, while her mother seems to have died from drowning (a possible case of suicide). Turtle knows no other world than with her father, who abuses her at night and sadistically invents different games. But things begin to change when Turtle becomes friendly with two boys, Jacob and Brett, who introduce her to the normality of life. She slowly realises she has to escape from her father’s clutches, but will he ever allow her to? The title incidentally is the father’s nickname for his daughter.
Not for the faint-hearted…but maybe good literature never is!
By Farhad J. Dadyburjor, Mumbai