My Absolute Darling
This debut novel has been winning rare praise and with little wonder. Set on the Mendocino Coast in modern day California it tells the story of 14-year-old girl Turtle Alvestron who lives alone with Martin, her father, who is given to reading philosophy and is well versed in green issues. He also rapes Turtle at regular intervals. Needless to say, Turtle struggles at school, but is obviously a bright child, and has an enigmatic presence that pulls others into her orbit including a kindly teacher as well as potential friends and suitors. It’s the type of set up which may lead you to think that you’re in for an unremittingly ugly grind, but, while Turtle is undoubtedly a victim, she is never beaten and is a constantly resourceful and engaging presence throughout. The author vividly draws her world - including a landscape whose wildness Turtle is the equal of, and her unsurprisingly confused and skewed view of human relationships - with an unflinching eye. It’s a shocking tale, yes (a scene involving home surgery is look-away-now stuff), but ultimately redemptive and uplifting.