The world opens up for Tur­tle after she res­cues Brett and Jacob, two teenaged boys lost in the Men­do­cino wilder­ness. Spend­ing time with their lov­ing, whole­some fam­i­lies is like a voy­age to another planet, worlds away from the bru­tal treat­ment she’s come to asso­ciate with ‘love.’

The intro­duc­tion of another girl, ten-​year-​old Cayenne, into Turtle’s life ratch­ets up the ter­ror, and Tur­tle must make a ter­ri­ble deci­sion: to do the coura­geous thing and end this or carry on as always and pre­serve the per­ni­cious bond between her­self and Martin.

In the final chap­ters of the novel, Turtle’s feel­ings for Cayenne, Brett, and Jacob are tested to the core when she has to pit her own sur­vival­ist train­ing and shoot­ing skills against those of her for­mi­da­ble father.

MY ABSOLUTE DAR­LING is both unfor­get­table and often deeply unset­tling. Some of the more graphic pas­sages are dif­fi­cult to read, as when Tur­tle is forced to do pull-​ups from a ceil­ing beam with an upright knife between her legs. That said, this is a novel not to be missed, where bru­tal action merges with mag­nif­i­cent prose and acts of stun­ning cru­elty are jux­ta­posed with mes­mer­iz­ing descrip­tions of the nat­ural world in which Tur­tle finds rare moments of solace.

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