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Publisher's Summary

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

Turtle Alveston is a survivor. At 14, she roams the woods along the Northern California coast. The creeks, tide pools, and rocky islands are her haunts and her hiding grounds, and she is known to wander for miles. But while her physical world is expansive, her personal one is small and treacherous. Turtle has grown up isolated since the death of her mother, in the thrall of her tortured and charismatic father, Martin. Her social existence is confined to the middle school (where she fends off the interest of anyone, student or teacher, who might penetrate her shell) and to her life with her father.

Then Turtle meets Jacob, a high-school boy who tells jokes, lives in a big clean house, and looks at Turtle as if she is the sunrise. And for the first time, the larger world begins to come into focus: Her life with Martin is neither safe nor sustainable. Motivated by her first experience with real friendship and a teenage crush, Turtle starts to imagine escape, using the very survival skills her father devoted himself to teaching her. The listener tracks Turtle's escalating acts of physical and emotional courage and watches, heart in throat, as she struggles to become her own hero - and, in the process, becomes ours as well.

Shot through with striking language in a fierce natural setting, My Absolute Darling is an urgently told, profoundly moving book that marks the debut of an extraordinary new writer.

©2017 Gabriel Tallent (P)2017 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

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

"Alex McKenna's performance of Tallent's disturbing debut novel is likely to incite goose bumps and nightmares." (AudioFile)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    256
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    74

Performance

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Story

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  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Talented writer that needs direction

What on earth possessed me to read this I'll never know. After spending years in a profession where I had to read patient bio's similar to this story, I might have just drifted into it out of habit; or maybe it was my other habit of reading what the Editors and Critics list as the *Best Of* books. Very profound abuse of a young girl by an eccentric father. The mother has passed away, possibly intentionally -- you'll come to wonder. The psychological manipulations by the father are horrendous, teetering between equally repulsive strategies of treating the girl as a willing lover and as a little girl he wants to protect from a world he believes is coming to an apocalyptic end, interspersed with beatings.

I can't blame anyone for suggesting a book they thought was great...I have to admit Tallent shows promise as a writer far better than most of the debut authors; all the more confusing. He is even poetic at times. But, aside from any leanings toward the poetical...the book is loaded with profanity...loaded. The girl continuously refers to herself (and everyone else) fondly as a *C* word. Sadly, I didn't find the story itself compelling enough to justify the sickening feeling it gave me -- and I'm nowhere near a shrinking violet when it comes to the subject. With such extensive and prolonged abuse, I found myself wondering, where are the responsible adults in this story; where are the red flags and the charging bulls they should be attracting? Without more of a psychological foundation, the story slipped into sensationalism.

If you can take the details of abuse and endure to the end, be prepared for a Deus ex Machina conclusion that eliminated any positive points I may have wanted to give to a new author showing real talent.

30 of 33 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

What an awful book

I’ve never read a book with more repetition since Dr. Seuss. Such a slog getting through what should have been a harrowing read. And while the material was written poorly the narration didn’t help : whiny and irritating. my Absolute disappointment.

13 of 14 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Heartbreaking book-did not like

This book has a number of amazing reviews--- I had high hopes when my book club picked it that it would be a good one. After just a few chapters, I realized that it was not what I had hoped. While I know the author thinks we all need to hear the heartbreaking details of someone dealing with child abuse and incest, the details of the abuse upon the main character, Turtle, were often gratuitous and unnecessarily graphic. I wish I had not read this book. The only positive thing I can say is that the main character Turtle was a great character. While I did not like this book from the get-go, I stuck with it to the end hoping it to be redeeming. It was not. I found the last 2 chapters of the book completely uninteresting and the ending completely unsatisfying. I know I am in the minority with this unfavorable review. I will not be reading another book by this author.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Just skip it

Long winded descriptions of nature that are hard to follow, male writer tries to describe what a female teenager undergoing sexual/physical/emotional abuse would feel like, horrific dialogue, loose ends, unrealistic character traits, and so many guns. Got halfway through, read some spoilers, and moved on with my life. I wanted to love this.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Cathy
  • Medford, OR, United States
  • 09-13-17

Sick, relentlessly brutal.

Any additional comments?

There are many ways to draw attention to sexual, emotional and physical child abuse, and as a therapist I've treated some horror stories, but this book wants to make you squirm, as if poisoned, non-stop -- and I have a fairly high tolerance. This "story" is so disturbingly twisted, it starts to make the listener ill, from the start. The book mixes in intellectual and philosophical "support" to tweak your brain's interests, perhaps to "smooth out" the ravaging plight of the poor protagonist adolescent girl. Even the aspect of "her ambivalent love for her father" gets bathed in the gut wrenching slog through excessive self hatred, that while "sort of" believable, feels gratuitous. I'm an avid audible listener, and varied. I lasted about 2/3'rds. of the way through when I went to the last chapter and listened, hoping for a redeeming ending, but it didn't seem to have one. So when the cruelty aspect reached an EXTREME level, (cutting off a finger of a terrified little 10 yr. old girl, after wounding her with a bullet), I bailed. I recommend the audible folks listen to this and ask themselves what they were thinking in supporting a story so sadistic that it seems to aim to steal or warp the listener's soul. Avoid, unless you like to feel horrible for hours....

35 of 42 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Trauma Porn Disguised as Literature

I am extremely disappointed in this book. The protagonist, Turtle, is put through repeated and escalating traumas one after the other with no time for the character to develop or for the reader to really connect with her or any of the other characters. The author clearly believes he is very clever - he throws in references to classical literature and philosophy frequently and often with little relation to the plot. There has rightly been a pushback recently against the trope of using rape as a development plot point for female characters, and this novel takes that to its extreme.

The one bright light is Alex McKenna's performance, which is very well done.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Painful

Beautifully written but I’m not sure the pain is worth it in the end. While reading the harrowing details of Turtle’s life I felt anxious and depressed but I pushed through for the payoff of happy or meaningful ending or at least lessons learned. I didn’t get any of that—maybe I just didn’t get it. I really want to like this book but not sure I could recommend it w a clear conscious.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    2 out of 5 stars

Ugh - I wanted to like this!

What disappointed you about My Absolute Darling?

I'm into it about 4 hours and it just does not sustain my interest. The bleak life the young girl endures is not tempered enough with a counter balance in the story to make me want to continue listening.

Would you ever listen to anything by Gabriel Tallent again?

I did love the writing and was the reason I continued on past hour 2. But, it's not the writing here that was the problem for me - it's just the story felt like it wasn't making any headway

Any additional comments?

I'm not finishing it! Disappointing!

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

Incest, torture, extreme violence

Because of strong reviews, I listened to this warped book. If you enjoy following the rapes of 10- and 14-year-old girls, then this book is for you! If you don't like hearing about fathers who force knives between the legs of middle-school girls, then you might look elsewhere - - and also consider what kind of reviewer considers tweener torture and porn to be literature.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Precious meets Misery meets Die Hard

I bought this book on Stephen King’s much touted endorsement: “a masterpiece,” he called it. Overall an enjoyable but dark read which loses its way in the last quarter of the book when it moves from a tight psychological thriller to basically Die Hard 3 in an instant. I think the author was aiming to secure a film option — over-the-top machine-gun violence at a prom on a beach. Really?

2 of 2 people found this review helpful