AUTHOR’S BIO

Gabriel Tallent grew up in Mendocino, California, thrashing through the underbrush in search of anything awesome. He attended the Mendocino Community High School and spent a lot of time backpacking, re-reading Greek tragedies, and trying to figure out Moby Dick. Tallent received his BA from Willamette University and wrote his thesis on the discursive construction of pleasure in Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, which is more interesting than it sounds. He has worked as a crew leader for Northwest Youth Corps, as an extremely bored and distracted checker at Target, as dining room staff at the Alta Lodge, and as a food runner and server at The Copper Onion. He lives in Salt Lake City, where he can be found climbing or futilely trying to identify plants in Little Cottonwood Canyon. His stories have been published in Narrative and in the St Petersburg Review. His debut novel, My Absolute Darling, was published in August 2017 by Riverhead Books.

KIRKUS REVIEW

A 14-year-old girl struggles to escape her father’s emotional and physical abuse in this harrowing debut.

Turtle (born Julia) lives with her father, Martin, in the woods near the Mendocino coast. Their home is equipped like a separatist camp, and Martin opines officiously about climate change when he isn’t training Turtle in gun skills or, at night, raping her. Unsurprisingly, Turtle is isolated, self-hating, and cruel to her classmates. She also possesses the kind of strength that suggests she could leave Martin if she had help, but her concerned teacher and grandfather are unsure what to do, and once Martin pulls her out of school and her grandfather dies, the point is moot. Can she get out? Tallent delays the answer to that question, of course, but before the climax he’s written a fearless adventure tale that’s as savvy about internal emotional storms as it is about wrangling with family and nature. Turtle gets a glimpse of a better life through Jacob, a classmate from a well-off family (“she feels brilliantly included within that province of things she wants”), and her efforts to save him in the woods earn his admiration. But when Martin brings another young girl home, Turtle can’t leave for fear of history repeating. Tallent often stretches out visceral, violent scenes—Turtle forced to sustain a pull-up as Martin holds a knife beneath her, homebrew surgery, eating scorpions—to a point that is nearly sadistic. But he plainly means to explore how such moments seem to slow time, imprinting his young characters deeply. And he also takes care with Martin’s character, showing how the autodidact, hard-edged attitude that makes him so monstrous also gives Turtle the means to plot against him. Ultimately, though, this is Turtle’s story, and she is a remarkable teenage hero, heavily damaged but admirably persistent.

A powerful, well-turned story about abuse, its consequences, and what it takes to survive it.

THE AUDIOBOOK

A brilliant and immersive, all-consuming audiobook about one 14-year-old girl’s heart-stopping fight for her own soul, read almost perfectly by Alex McKenna,
it is 15 hrs and 47 mins long.

Watch the PBS News Hour interview, writing My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent YouTube.



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