Ta­boos and ev­ery day trau­mas

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - Books -

oil lamp, spoon­ing one foot against the other, think­ing, he came back and every­thing left you. All the dreams about the girl you could be. Gone. You al­ways thought it was him. But you wanted him back. You’re in this, too. You were a child once but not any­more and what could be ex­cused in a child will not be and can­not be ex­cused in you.”

In a sense, this is a bar­racuda bil­dungsro­man, a nu­anced, ex­cep­tion­ally dra­matic and bru­tal ac­count of a girl’s mat­u­ra­tion.

There are con­ven­tional el­e­ments, such as scenes of high school sham­ing that af­firm Tur­tle’s out­sider sta­tus, and brushes with kind­ness that graze the mawk­ish, par­tic­u­larly after Tur­tle, with Anna’s help, es­tab­lishes her­self with her own plot of land. But even such safe places feel edgy, as Mr. Tal­lent ex­plores a toxic do­mes­tic sit­u­a­tion Tur­tle’s dis­tant and very dif­fer­ent neigh­bors sense but won’t ac­knowl­edge, let alone ad­dress.

Per­haps the edgi­est as­pect of “My Ab­so­lute Dar­ling” is Mr. Tal­lent’s pre­sen­ta­tion of in­cest as some­thing other than a sim­plis­tic mat­ter of abuse and vic­tim­hood. Not that that isn’t the case here, too. Still, it’s dar­ing of Mr. Tal­lent to couch this sit­u­a­tion in so at­trac­tive a con­text.

It’s his way of pin­ning down taboo, of un­cov­er­ing the rot be­neath the rock, of shining fresh light on places of ter­ri­ble dark­ness. “My Ab­so­lute Dar­ling” sounds pri­mal alarms with an ur­gent con­tem­po­rary voice.

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