It’s just the two of them, 14-year old Julia, called Turtle, and her father Martin. Her mother ran away a long time ago. And there’s her grandfather living close to them, but staying mainly apart. Her father loves her, more than anything else in the world, she can feel it, despite his strange way of showing his affection. He hurts her sometimes, but only because she has not been nice and provoked him. And he loves her, like a man loves a woman. She likes being close to him, that’s normal, isn’t it? But as Turtle is getting older, somewhere deep inside her doubts start to grow. Is all this correct? When she meets Jacob and gets to like him more and more, suddenly the fragile family construction of Martin and Turtle is threatened, even more when Martin brings the small girl Cayenne to their home. Turtle finally realised that she has to do something because nothing is right in their home.
Gabriel Tallent’s debut novel has a weird fascination just like accidents have. On the one hand, you do not want to look (or in this case: read on), because it is all to awful and you know that you had better not read this. On the other hand, you want to see what’s happening and this drags you back to the novel again and again.
Surely, this is nothing to read for highly sensitive readers. It is about child abuse, violence and psychological pressure of the worst kind. However, even though from an outsider’s point of view, this is horrible and unbearable, Gabriel Tallent manages also to convey another perspective which, it remains to be feared, is only too real and can be found in many victims. Julia loves her father, she loves his tenderness and warmth and even the physical contact isn’t something she loathes, quite the contrary. If she did something against it, she’d lose him and thus she has to calculate very accurately what she is doing. This is not easy to understand and even worse to support in a novel, but at a realistic view, this might be a quite common interpretation of the situation.
All in all, not a novel you enjoy to read, but one that takes an interesting perspective and might add something to our understanding.