My Absolute Darling was a very difficult book to read. I would not recommend this book to anyone who has ever been sexually or physically abused. In the very first chapter, I thought about not reading the book because there is some pretty graphic sexual abuse. I felt slightly uncomfortable the whole time I was reading because there were some brutal, disgusting, and just sickening parts in the book, but once I looked beyond the shocking violent scenes, I discovered there was a beautifully written story about a resilient young woman.
From the book cover, “A harrowing story of bravery and redemption. With Turtle’s escalating acts of physical and emotional courage, the reader watches, heart in throat, as this teenage girl struggles to become her own hero- and, in the process, becomes ours as well.”
Turtle does become a hero. She is a fourteen year old girl who lives alone with her abusive father. She hates herself. She is paralyzed with self-doubt, hesitant and afraid. She never spends any time with anyone except her father, except when she visits her grandfather. She hides the abuse and doesn’t tell anyone what happens to her because she fears what her father will do. She is isolated from her peers. She even believes at times that it may be her fault or maybe there is something rotten inside her that makes her father abusive. When she thinks about fighting back or running away, she thinks of how much bigger than her he is, how much stronger and smarter and more experienced. She lives in a constant state of fear.
As the book progresses, Turtle begins to realize that she isn’t a child anymore and that this isn’t the girl she wants to be. She wants to survive. She says, “Taking your own life in your own hands is the hardest thing you can do.” Part of the reason she begins to feel his way is because of a friendship she begins with a boy she meets in the woods, Jacob. The friendship opens her eyes to what her life could be like away from her controlling father.
Turtle’s father is just the most horrible, cruel, bitter and angry man. He is in a constant state of rage at society and completely against the outside world. Listening to his long rants, it is obvious that he is mentally unstable. Martin himself had a troubled childhood. There was something Martin needed from his own father that he just didn’t get.
This book is not for the faint of heart. I was pulling for Turtle the whole way, never understanding why she didn’t run when she had the chance, but desperately wanting her to finally get away from her father. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but be warned, this is not an easy book to read. It is dark, disturbing, sadistic, full of awful language and just heart-breaking. However, if you can get past the darkness, you will find a powerful and exceptionally well written book from a very talented writer.