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Publisher's Summary

Winner of Audible's 2017 Editors' Pick Award

A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming listen about one 14-year-old girl's heart-stopping fight for her own soul.

'You think you're invincible. You think you won't ever miss. We need to put the fear on you. You need to surrender yourself to death before you ever begin and accept your life as a state of grace, and then and only then will you be good enough.'

At 14, 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....

Sometimes strength is not the same as courage.
Sometimes leaving is not the only way to escape.
Sometimes surviving isn't enough.

©2017 Gabriel Tallent (P)2017 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

"The word 'masterpiece' has been cheapened by too many blurbs, but My Absolute Darling absolutely is one." (Stephen King)

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 10-11-17

Brilliant!

A sometimes difficult, but always vivid and tender account, I was completely absorbed throughout. This is my favourite book of the year.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark
  • 09-22-17

Tough going, but ultimately rewarding

This is a tough book. Not just because at 14 year old girl being sexually abused by her father, but because every emotion and thought is described in such raw and uncompromising prose.

You only view the world from the point of view of the girl, Julia (Turtle), so you spend the whole 15 hours in her head and this is an confusing and troubling place to be. I found the early parts of the book especially difficult. When it is just Julia and her dad (who only seems to use a handful of phrases, "Jesus Christ" is particularly grating) and I nearly gave up with it several times during this section.

The book does lift though, when other characters come into the story and there are some wonderful passages of prose describing the natural world. And, while I don't want to give away the ending, stick with it, you won't feel as though you wasted your time.

So, not for everyone, but if you can cope with some tough writing you will be rewarded with a gripping story that you will not forget.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Moteridgerider
  • 01-18-18

Will enthrall and appall you in equal measure

Where does My Absolute Darling rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Top 3

What was one of the most memorable moments of My Absolute Darling?

See below

What about Alex McKenna’s performance did you like?

At first, I wasn’t sure I was going to like Alex McKenna's voice. It has a husky quality which made me think she needed to clear her throat, but it gradually grew on me. Being an audio-narrator myself I can only marvel at McKenna’s phrasing and characterisation. From the menace of Martin’s domineering personality, to the hippyish banter of Jacob and Brett, McKenna fleshes out the characters with effortless skill

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

See below

Any additional comments?

I tend to listen to audiobooks in the early hours of the morning when suffering from insomnia. The notion is that reading a book is likely to wake me up too much and that just lying there counting sheep is counterproductive in terms of wrestling with endlessly cycling thoughts and emotions. Audiobooks, in theory, provide a happy medium between the two; hopefully tapping into the childhood ‘bedtime story’ vibe.

With this in mind, Gabriel Tallent’s book in hindsight, was not the best book to choose for this purpose. It is not an ‘easy’ listen. In the same way that Jack Ketchum’s ‘Girl next door’ was not an easy read. It’s a story that grips you, attaches you to the complex characters and pummels your emotions like a butter churner. Definitely not sleep-inducing stuff!

Turtle Alveston is a young teenage girl and protagonist in this story. She has several names. Her real one is Julia, but her Dad, Martin, calls her ‘Kibble’ (don’t know if I’ve spelled that right – it was an audiobook after all.) At first it’s quite difficult to tell what exactly this young girl’s character is or where the story is going. In fact the first chapter or two are very intriguing for this reason. But one thing the reader/listener is left in doubt about, is that Turtle has an extraordinary upbringing and that things are not quite … normal. She meticulously maintains and expertly uses firearms. She eats raw eggs for breakfast. Her morning routine includes uncapping a bottle of beer for her obsessive and controlling father. She knows how to look after herself in the wild.

Turtle has no friends at school but is not bullied. There’s something so edgy about her that other kids keep a respectful distance. In fact, it isn’t until one of her forays into the wilderness turns into a several day absence from home that she forges a relationship of sorts with two, lost teenage hikers.

As a listener, I remained immersed in the story while I figured out my bearings as a result of Tallent’s uncanny … ahem … talent for description and internal dialogue on the part of Turtle. I’ve watched one interview with the author on youtube and he reveals that he purposefully set out to depict Turtle’s character as a ‘glimmer’ that became fully formed after he repeated draft after draft. As such, he has been able to get into the essence of this complex, young, female character and that is a great accomplishment as a male author. Turtle is the ultimate unreliable narrator as she seeks to make sense of and justify her predicament, often mimicking speech and thought patterns of her father.

Tallent interweaves the scenes and settings of North California with consummate skill. As a biologist, I was enthralled at his descriptions of the plant-life in the story. Something that is not incidental. Turtle’s exploration of the local flora is interwoven with some heavy emotional themes that come to the fore in conversations with her grandfather and her struggles with a garden at the end of the book.

It’s hard to chart the emotional roller-coaster that this book takes you on without giving spoilers, so all I can say is that just when you feel you are able to take a breather from the wrenching you have gone through in one scene – bam! Tallent hits you with another. The depictions of violence, cruelty and abuse pull no punches. But these are not prurient or facile attempts to shock. In Tallent’s own words they are an honest effort to treat the subject matter in a manner that has integrity and reality. The book is stronger for it. For me, the most excruciating moments are Martin’s coercive and insidious justifications for his actions and the way he tries to place the responsibility for what happens on Turtle. Like I said – not sleep-inducing fare.

Another drawing point for me were the observations that characters make about the natural world in the story and how they are an allegory for momentous issues in those character’s lives. Particularly poignant are the scenes where Turtles grandfather talks to her about the naming of plants and how sometimes things don’t need an immediate name, just the will to describe them. Another, is when Turtle deals with a black widow spider on behalf of a young girl, Cayenne (spelling may be wrong – it’s an audiobook.)

Stephen King has placed this book on a pedestal with ‘Catch 22’ and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’‘My Absolute Darling’ will both entice and appall you in equal measure. Don’t listen if you have a heart condition.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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  • hfffoman
  • 09-17-17

Disastrous choice of narrator

Would you try another book written by Gabriel Tallent or narrated by Alex McKenna?

BY the author, yes, by the narrator, no

Would you be willing to try another one of Alex McKenna’s performances?

Never

Any additional comments?

How on earth did they choose a narrator with a broken voice that sounds like two rusty pieces of metal scraping?

10 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Purple Kama
  • 09-14-17

Weirdly beautiful

Loved it but hard to say why when parts were so disturbing. I think it was the depth and descriptive narrative that did it for me. The brutal honesty of Turtle. The complete access to a damaged mind. I think the blurb from Stephen King calling it a masterpiece is completely fair. Very different for me but I'm glad I tried it.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Dizyrunner
  • 01-28-18

Difficult to listen to at times

Extremely graphic and difficult to listen to at times. Found myself wondering why the writer would choose to write in this way. Had it not been for the fact that I'm studying psychotherapy I would have stopped listening. I didn't like the storytellers voice and the constant. he said; she said all the way through.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Kathst
  • 01-21-18

exceptional worth sticking with as hard at first

this story drags so much at the start .if it wasn't for the reviews I would have given up. But wow what a book. make sure your not driving through the last two thirds . I would highly recommend this book it is so well written and not as full of sexual abuse as it makes out in the description. the only thing I would say is the narrators gravely voice but that's not her fault and you get used to it
the author should be proud she certainly got her point across .full to the brim with emotion . well worth sticking with
.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mrs. Caroline Bradshaw
  • 01-11-18

So grim

This has so many plaudits I was intrigued.
Struggled to finish, repetitive, far fetched and so dark.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Rona Macleod
  • 10-06-17

Best book I've listened to in a long time.

Gripping and intense story line
can't recommend this book highly enough.
can't wait for the authors next one.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Mr David Kemp
  • 09-29-17

A thrilling and disturbing listen

I found the book a wonderful exploitation in what it can be like for people who are abused by people they love. It helps you understand why people let their abusers carry on. It is a disturbing subject but really well explored and the story keeps you gripped.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • imtralee
  • 10-18-17

gripping

one of those life changing stories that haunt your thought forever more. Chilling and spellbinding. The rich language also welcome return to literature.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Maureen
  • 03-08-18

Uniquely crafted and creepy

This book fluctuated between entralling and tedious. Many times the story while amazingly descriptive bordered on being verbose and I became impatient for the story to move on. The overall theme was uncomfortable to say the least. I did have difficulty distinguishing between voices on occasions. In the end, I did wonder if there would be a sequel ??? This unique author could do it, if anyone could.