BINGO – The Wilds
[TW: sexual abuse, physical abuse, psychological abuse, abuse of a minor, gun violence, language (which I’ve included in white text below)]
There’s been some discussion recently on Cannonball Read about how far into a book does one go before giving up. My procedure is to give a a book at least 1/3 of its total page count before giving up entirely. My 11th grade English teacher, Mrs. Julie Cogburn (one of the best I ever had), shared this procedure with us. She said that by 1/3 of the way through, an author should have been able to establish and build the characters, the world, and the plot enough so that at least one of those things grabs the reader enough to keep going. My Absolute Darling failed on all three accounts, so I gave up and did not finish. I will be very frank in the rest of my review about some of the atrocities that will involve all of the trigger warnings above.
Turtle is a 14 year old girl who lives with her father Martin in Northern California. Turtle goes to sleep each night in a sleeping bag on the ground in a room in which part of the roof is missing with flora growing into the house and an entire wall of guns on a peg board. She knows each and every gun on the wall: how to load it, how to shoot it, how to clean it, and when each gun is appropriate to use. She also knows how to field dress animals, knows how to identify nearly every plant species in the land around her, and knows how to navigate safely across forests, streams, and rivers even at night. Martin is convinced that society is going to collapse at any time, and they need to be ready.
Martin is also abusing Turtle, physically and sexually. This is by far and away the biggest issue that I had with this book. I am not of the mind that authors cannot or should not write about these things. However, I am of the mind that these horrors need to be written with a level of sensitivity toward the victims especially when those victims are children. Tallent writes these acts brutally. There are details provided both inter- and post-abuse that are unnecessary and only serve to…. I don’t actually know. Convince us that abuse is bad? When in reality all that occurred was a cold description of abuse.
Martin and Turtle also do not talk like people. Their dialogue with each other and people outside the family is bizarre. Even Turtle’s inner monologue is monstrous. I lost track of how many “fuck”s that Martin drops for no reason. Turtle frequently calls people “bitch”, “bastard”, and even “cunt” in her head. This is a 14 year old. No 14 year old curses that much. They curse, sure (I did use to teach math to this age range, so I have some experience with frustrated and angry 14/15 year olds), but this was unnaturally extreme. There is even a scene when Turtle calls her teacher a bitch repeatedly to her face, and the teacher just takes it. At worst, she’s nonplussed. That’s not how that would play out in the real world.
I read another review of this book on Goodreads that described it as “one man’s dark sexual fantasies masquerading as literature and art”, and that is the most perfect summary of this book. Steer clear.