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My Absolute Darling
A Novel
Gabriel Tallent
read on January 12, 2018

This book is so well written that me trying to say anything about it is just foolish.

I am a girl things go badly for. 

It is about damaged people. 

You are supposed to come to the door and believe that hell awaits just on the other side, believe that this house is full of nightmares; every personal demon you have, every worst fear. That’s what you stalk through this house. That’s what waits for you down the hallway. Your worst fucking nightmare. Not a cardboard cutout. Practice conviction, kibble, strip yourself of hesitation and doubt, train yourself to an absolute singularity of purpose, and if you ever have to step through a door into your own personal hell, you will have a shot, a shot at survival.

At times it is very dark, and sad, and depressing, and sometimes it's very uncomfortable to read. But it's also inspiring and happy and joyful and uplifting.

She switchbacks through myrtles and rusty fronds. She comes into the rocky creek and wades up it, her feet numb with cold. The trees rise blackly into the star-glittered vault. She thinks, I will go back now. Back to my room. I have promised and promised and promised and he cannot bear to lose me. To the east, the stream shines glassy from out the riotous dark. She stands breathing, taking in the silence for a very long time. Then she goes.

The prose is unbelievable. 

Turtle climbs out of slaughterhouse gulch and comes into a forest of bishop pine and huckleberries, deciphering them in the darkness by the wax of the leaves and the brittle mess of their sprawl, the dawn still hours away. At times she breaks from the woods into moonlit open places filled with rhododendron, their flowers pink and ghostly in the dark, their leaves leathery and prehistoric. There is a part of Turtle that she keeps shut up and private, that she attends to with only a diffuse and uncritical attention, and when Martin advances on this part of herself, she plays him a game of tit for tat, retreating wordlessly and almost without regard to consequences; her mind cannot be taken by force, she is a person like him, but she is not him, nor is she just a part of him — and there are silent, lonely moments when this part of her seems to open like some night-blooming flower, drinking in the cold of the air, and she loves this moment, and loving it, she is ashamed, because she loves him, too, and she should not thrill this way, should not thrill to his absence, should not need to be alone, but she takes this time by herself anyway, hating herself and needing it, and it feels so good to follow these trackless ways through the huckleberries and the rhododendrons.

This is the best novel I've ever read.  I never wanted to stop reading it. Not necessarily because it's gripping, or because I wanted to know what happened next, but because the act of reading it was so effortless and compelling and rewarding. The best way I can describe it is that most of the time reading feels like my brain is pulling words out of the book, doing work to lift them from the pages and into my brain for processing and comprehension. Reading My Absolute Darling had the effect of the words being siphoned out of the book and directly into my head - once it was started, gravity did all of the of the work. If anything, the work for me became a struggle of making enough room in my head for the words to fit, faster and faster and faster until the book was done.

Author Bio:

Gabriel Tallent was born in New Mexico and grew up in Mendocino, California with two mothers. received his BA from Willamette University in 2010. After graduation he spent time leading youth trail crews through the backcountry of of the Pacific Northwest. Gabriel enjoys blackpacking and rock climbing. 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.