Taboos and every day traumas
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.