This book has one of the best blurbs I’ve come across in ages! That, coupled with the amazing reviews surfacing for this title, My Absolute Darling became a must read.
A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming read about one fourteen-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.
Unfortunately, I didn’t love this book as much as I did the blurb; it was a completely different story to the one I was expecting in some ways, but it was also exactly what I thought it would be. So, let’s analyse my read…
Firstly, the theme was exactly as I expected, think ‘Our Endless Numbered Days’, Turtle’s dad is the man she loves most in the world, and simultaneously, the man she hates the most. Turtle’s suffered the most horrific abuse at the hands of her father (sexual, physical and emotional), she knows her life is different from other young girls her age but her father loves her, even if he has a strange way of showing it sometimes. Knowing these dark themes would make hard reading, I was looking forward to the coming-of-age element of the story, the hope that Turtle would escape the life she is currently living, that she’d break free or be rescued.
It took me a little while to get into the plot itself as I believe this novel has a very harsh writing style, which is fitting to this novel, however it kept me at an emotional distance from the plot. The language is harsh, a lot of swearing, which I don’t mind (but if you find ‘c**t’ offensive, you’ll be reading it quite a few times in this one), but where I think my heart should have broken for Turtle due to the feelings she held about herself, it didn’t, I just struggled to emotionally connect with her. Don’t get me wrong, her home-life will unsettle the hardest of hearts, but I didn’t feel it the way I have with other young protagonists in novels with these dark themes.
My favourite parts of the novel were Turtle’s interactions with Jacob, a young boy she meets and forms a friendship with, because these were the moments you saw just how damaged Turtle was as a result of all that she’s been through. How she struggled with even the most basic human interactions, how to show kindness and encouragement, how to lower her barriers and let someone in. I say these were my favourite parts because, though they weren’t direct ‘abuse-scenes,’ they still showed Turtle’s fathers abuse, in the way she interacted without others.
Where I struggled with this plot was it was at a standstill for too long, similar to my feeling about ‘A Little Life’, it was depressing, the abusive element was so strong and dominated the text, it far outweighed, the coming-of-age element. Give me a gory, horrific murder in a serial killer thriller and I’ll devour it, but here the pain, the detail, was so uncomfortable and difficult to read at times, I just didn’t want to read it, to the point where I even considered abandoning this novel. Now, My Absolute Darling isn’t a novel that you’d attach the word “enjoyed” to but rather, it will have words such as “emotional” and “hard-to-read” attached to it. So, if you do decide to give this one a read, please remember it makes brutal reading, so be prepared for many uncomfortable moments.
For me, this novel didn’t have poetic prose and I don’t think it was supposed to, but I wonder if it did, it might have helped me connect more with it. I think My Absolute Darling is meant to push the reader to their limits, it’s harsh, raw, unflinching. But sadly, it was too raw for me, too much pain to absorb without anything else to focus on.