Warning: the first two things "you need to know" about Gabriel Tallent's *My Absolute Darling (listed below) aren't exactly ringing endorsements for reading the book.
But you should DEFINITELY read this book (IF the first two things don't apply to you).
I really loved this book, but given the reviews at Goodreads, it's clear that this book wasn't everyone's cup of tea (shot of whiskey?), and in fact, the book was quite controversial. Given the book's subject matter relating to sexual trauma and a minor, I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised.
Fourteen year old Turtle Alveston is being raised by her father Martin to be a survivor — he's taught her how to fire weapons, sharpen knives, navigate the coastal wilderness around their northern California and mistrust the outside world.
But Turtle isn't at all safe from the outside world — the kids at school, teachers who want to help, curious adults who knew her mother when she was alive. None of them could ever guess at how much her father loves her — or how terrifyingly manipulative he is.
Eventually, several events in Turtle's life force her to interact with the outside world, and she begins to open up. She begins to question her father's world, which puts her in danger — but also opens her eyes to what true friendship and caring looks like. In the end, Turtle must choose between the known force of her abusive father's love — and the unknown power of her own inner strength.
The most important aspects of this book
It involves sexual trauma, so as previously mentioned, it's definitely a trigger warning for women who have experienced their own sexual trauma. But I also have to emphasize (again) that the story is beautifully written, both in language and in its plotting. I couldn't put this book down!
1. Don't read this book if you get triggered by sexual trauma.
This is a terrifying book for just about anyone, but I can't imagine how bad it might be for someone who has been sexually assaulted or abused, especially by a loved one.
But then again, maybe this is just the book you need — because this is definitely a survivor's story. Turtle's journey is powerful allegory on survival. Gallant doesn't sugar coat anything, but I think that's one of the reasons I loved it. Talk to your therapist first if you're not sure.
2. Don't read this book if you're offended by vulgar language.
Gallant uses the c-word and the p-word pretty regularly throughout the book. Although I hate that kind of language in "real" life, in this context it served to sharpen the prose and create a very real world for the readers. It served to highlight the danger and emotional abuse that was depicted in the book.
Maybe just knowing ahead of time that the language is vulgar is helpful (I hope so — I think you should read this book if you can). Perhaps that way you can decide that you aren't going to let the language bother you like it would if someone used them in front of you.
The violence and the language in this book reminds me a little bit of the show "Breaking Bad." I remember being deeply disturbed at the violence of the show — but also thinking that the violence clearly (and compellingly) moved the plot forward to serve the story. I hate violence for violence's sake (I stopped watching The Walking Dead for that exact reason), but I can get on board if the violence serves the story in a way that's compelling and not overdone.
3. The setting is just as much a character as Turtle and the other main characters.
I love books that feature the land as character. Two books (that I loved) that come to mind are *Mink River by Brian Doyle and *The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah (read my review of Hannah's The Nightingale here). Interestingly enough, both of these books are set at least partly in the Pacific Northwest. The rocky shoreline, the redwoods, the ocean and the various plants and animals Gallant lists throughout the book serve to create an experience of being alive and right next to Turtle as she picks her way through the wilderness.
4. You will love this book if you love stories about strong women outdoors.
Turtle has been raised to be the consummate outdoorswoman. She knows how to survive in the woods, how to butcher animals, find food and stay drive. She can fire a weapon and use a knife. Knowing all these things both keeps her trapped and saves her — this may be one of the overarching themes of the book. Nature is a bitch, but she's a powerful force for good as well.
5. This book is very polarizing
If you read the reviews, there are lots of polarizing views.
But for me, this book was a reminder of all the things I love about great literature: It asks us to confront difficult choices; it gives us an opportunity to understand the deep fears, dreams and motivations behind people who, from the outside, look just plain awful. It uses real language, and depicts scenarios that no doubt actually happen in our world.
Some of the reviewers accused the book of profiting off of pain. Literature is art, and for some people who read this book, and see a character who fights a good fight, it is inspiring.
Honestly, this book reminded me of how I felt reading *All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Like a terrible, beautiful, very important thing had been put in the world, and my whole life was consumed by it the moments my eyes flashed over the text.
Read this book if you love great writing, and feel that tragedy can serve a purpose. Don't read it if you just can't handle any more terribleness in your life (and these days, there's a lot of terrible stuff going on in the world, so I completely understand).
Other book reviews at Outdoor Book Club you might enjoy:
Have you read the book? Do you have questions about it?
Leave a comment below and I'll answer it!
This post was originally published in November, 2013.
Whether it's bad weather, unsavory bad guys or wild animals, some women think that camping alone is only for the very brave or very crazy. But that's just not the case. If you've got the right gear, right preparation and the right attitude, camping alone can provide just the right combination of adventure, peace & quiet and much-needed rejuvenation. It's one of my favorite ways to reconnect with myself and nature.
Why spend time outdoors by yourself?
Camping by yourself is a great way to spend some quality time with the one person who probably needs it the most: you. The simple act of being around trees, rivers, lakes and the woods can take you from being a burned out, over-stressed crazy lady to a zen, bring-it-on kind of Wonder Woman.
There's nothing that will build your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment faster than packing all your gear in the back of your car and heading outdoors by yourself. (Plus you'll have the best story on book club night — which brings me to the best reason you should get outdoors: uninterrupted reading time!)
Here are seven tips to help you feel safe and relaxed while camping by yourself:
Want more great tips, tricks & hacks for women who love books & the outdoors? Sign up for our newsletter!
7 Solo Camping Tips for Women
1. Prepare mentally.
This is the MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do. Take some time to channel your inner Katniss Everdeen or even author Cheryl Strayed in her book *Wild. Imagine yourself as strong, capable and a total total badass, ready to take on whatever challenge the outdoors can throw at you. Journal about your fears, then switch roles and play the wiser, braver version of yourself and answer those fears. Next, minimize risks by following the rest of my tips to give you even more confidence.
2. Test Your gear.
Don't over pack, but make sure you have everything you need (this can be a hard balance for many women to strike). Bring a first aid kit, and know how to use it. Also bring bear spray, mace or a knife (one of these should be in every woman's standard hiking/camping gear) for emergencies, and understand how it works. ALWAYS practice setting up your tent and using your cook stove before you leave.
3. Let someone know your plans.
It's always a good idea to let several people know where you're going and when you'll be back. If you're going to a campground or state park, let the ranger/hosts know that you're there, and if you have any medical problems. Also, it never hurts to ask, "Is there anything I need to know?"
Some women like the extra confidence of having an emergency radio — one of my best friends, who often hikes in very remote areas, has a *Garmin In Reach Mini Satellite Communicator which allows her to always have a way to contact authorities in an emergency. These are pretty expensive tools, though, and I really only recommend them if you're going to be in the wilderness or so terrified there's no other way you'd go camping by yourself.
4. Pick a well-worn route.
Pick a trail or area that you're familiar with, and have visited before — barring that, pick a destination that's known to have good cell phone reception. State campgrounds are good options, as are private campgrounds — especially if you're just starting out.
The more experienced you are, the more you'll want to move out to less crowded campgrounds. The tradeoff is more peace and quiet.
5. Know your limits.
Start small, with a day hike so that you can become familiar with the area. If you're going to be gone for more than one night, make sure you're physically (okay, and mentally) capable of taking on a solo trip - be honest when it comes to your limits.
Build up to what you'll be taking on through walking, running and lifting weights, and make sure you have the appropriate food, water and all the right backpacking gear (including good shoes, a warm sleeping bag and the ability to pee in the woods) before you go.
6. Bring your dog.
A canine companion can provide just the right amount of company, though make sure you know the rules of the campground or area where you'll be bringing your pooch. Also make sure you pack extra gear and food so that Fido is comfortable and doesn't become more of a burden during the time when you're supposed to be re-charging your mental health.
A word of warning: sometimes your dog just isn't cut out for camping, and so your weekend away in the woods becomes super-stressful as you try to manage their anxiety. Know your dog's limits — sometimes a vacation includes getting away from the responsibility of dog ownership as well (assuming you have someone at home that can take care of your dog).
7. Bring a great book.
This is your chance to have some amazing reading time - make sure you take advantage of it! Whether you spend the whole time snuggled up in your sleeping bag with a book in front of your face (personally, my absolutely FAVORITE place to read is in my *hammock, or intersperse your reading time with some strategic hikes or cooking some gourmet meals for yourself, novels make great camping companions.
Looking for some great book recommendations while you're out in the woods? I've got you covered.
Camping by yourself isn't difficult or hard — it just seems that way if you've never done it before. Take the leap and you'll find it truly rewarding. What other tips or questions do you have when it comes to camping alone?
Leave a comment or question below and I'll answer it!
With millions of new books being published every year, finding great sources of book reviews and reading recommendations can be overwhelming. And while Instagram and Twitter both offer a plethora of great reading materials, Facebook is still where I go to find interesting and new literary ideas, including book recommendations
Here are 10 of the best Facebook pages I use to keep on top of all things bookish: reviews, best-sellers, unique lists or just funny/inspiring reading memes.
It's not surprising that Amazon knows books, but it was surprising that their book-specific Facebook feed has so much good content. Sneak peeks at new books, must-read lists from all genres, interviews with authors and book recommendations. Basically, there's a wide variety of book-related news and inspiration.
Book Riot's fresh, sarcastic style makes it one of my favorite book sites, and I actually look forward to getting their newsletters on Sundays. Check them out — they make being a book lover seem super cool. They've got some great book-related podcasts as well, so you can listen to experts and smart people talk about why books are important, plus discuss the latest news in your favorite genre.
This page has everything you'd expect from Buzzfeed — genre lists ("X Best Romance Novels...), cool bookish products, funny memes and general irreverence that we've all come to know and love about Buzzfeed. Somehow scrolling through their feed doesn't feel like I'm wasting time when I'm on Facebook.
I love the idea of thousands of strangers sharing what they're reading every Friday (as much as I love sharing what I read with them). This is a cute little page with a real community feeling around it — plus they have a lot of giveaways. Check them out.
Anyone who uses the Goodreads site or app will find their Facebook posts a nice complement to the site's other content. Author birthdays are my favorite; check the comments in their various "What are you reading?" posts to discover new reads.They also often feature reader-generated content.
Literature Is My Utopia
A little more intellectual & "heady," LIMU shares lots of inspirational quotes and old-timey author photos. They do a great job with their memes as well.
Book nerds unite! Again, another place for readers, not just book lovers. Their online community is smart and passionate; reading the comments is as enlightening as the posts themselves.
Keep up-to-date on the books that everyone is talking about. Includes links to recent author interviews, reviews, and book picks, as well as conversations about what you're reading, the future of publishing, and other lit-ish links. Basically everything you'd expect from NPR: Smart, often tongue-in-cheek articles about everything books.
A more humorous approach for book lovers. Lots of memes, links, giveaways and LOLs. I love this site for all the shareable cartoons about how great/awful it is to be a bookworm.
Books & Mortar
I'm including my favorite local indie bookstore because "Bookseller Jennie" does such a great job detailing her journey as a independent bookshop. She hosts tons of events and generally keeps her tight little community updated on great books and worthy causes. Whatever your local indie bookstore is, be sure to give them some Facebook (and IRL) love! (Honorable mention: Bay Books near Suttons Bay, Michigan)
Where do you go on Facebook to get your book fix? Let us know in the comments.
Jill Hinton Wolfe,
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