After reading "Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine" by Gail Honeyman, the next novel I picked up was "My Absolute Darling" by Gabriel Tallent. Perhaps the only thing that these two books have in common is that they are the writers' first published works.
I was blown away by the first few chapters of "My Absolute Darling". Set around Mendocino in northern California, the novel focuses on Turtle Alveston - a fourteen year old girl and her emotionally disturbed father, Martin. In those early chapters every word seemed to count. They were like musical notes in a symphony of observation.
We share Turtle's acute sense of her surroundings - the jagged coastline, the plant life and Martin's changing moods. Perhaps ominously, Turtle is forever dismantling and cleaning her guns. Martin has taught her how to shoot and the need to be ready when danger comes to call.
Her life is harsh like the dilapidated house she lives in - with mushrooms growing on the rotting window frame in the bathroom. We hear her inner voice - seeking understanding and forgiveness, struggling with terror and her very identity.
It is excellent writing and there is little wonder that Stephen King has called this novel "a masterpiece". Arguably, as "My Absolute Darling" reaches its dramatic crescendo followed by some sense of resolution, the writing becomes a little less assured than it was in those opening chapters. However, the story continued to grip me right to the end
It was a joy to sit out on our decking turning the pages. Gabriel Tallent lives in Salt Lake City and is a keen rock climber but he grew up in Mendocino and knows the landscape of his novel intimately. Surprisingly, he doesn't yet have a Wikipedia page but that situation surely won't last much longer. Hell, no - that fellow can write, really write. He made the Eleanor Oliphant book seem like child's play in comparison. If Tallent avoids a fatal climbing accident his reputation as a writer can only grow.
The best novel I have read in a long time. I hope I haven't given away too much.