What should you read this weekend? USA TODAY’s picks for book lovers include My Absolute Darling, the accclaimed debut by Gabriel Tallent, plus Salman Rusdhie’s topical new novel.
Turtle Alveston is a 14-year-old middle-schooler in coastal Northern California who’s better at cleaning guns and shooting targets than taking vocabulary tests.
After her mother’s death in a diving accident, her survivalist father, Martin, has raised Turtle in dilapidated conditions, isolated from everybody outside their front door. He put a gun in her hand at a young age, and ever since he has been preparing her for the end of the world while also constantly telling her, “You are mine.” And not in the most benevolent fashion.
Martin is a brutal, abusive creep, and the book excels in digging into their complicated relationship. He constantly calls Turtle by the pet name “kibble” and insists she’s his “absolute darling.” Yet his is a dangerous love, and Martin keeps Turtle captive in her own life by preying on insecurities he has seeded deep inside her.
Turtle begins to see this dire situation for what it is when she spends time outside her father’s influence — which naturally doesn’t go over well with Dad. Her ailing grandfather becomes worried when he sees nasty wounds and bruises on her body, an English teacher yearns for her to try harder and reach her potential, and new friends Brett and Jacob show her the importance of friendship.
USA TODAY says ***½ out of four stars. “A powerful debut novel… an affecting read but also an important one.”
The Golden House by Salman Rushdie; Random House, 380 pp.; fiction
Rushdie’s new novel stretches from the first Obama inauguration to the present day, with the Trump-like patriarch Nero Golden and his family serving as symbols for America’s current identity crisis.
USA TODAY ***½ stars. “Displays the quicksilver wit and playful storytelling of Rushdie’s best work.”
Rabbit: The Autobiography of Ms. Pat by Patricia Williams; Dey Street, 227 pp.; non-fiction
In this memoir, the comedian and popular podcast guest known as “Ms. Pat” brings her irreverent wit to a life’s journey so harrowing it is almost too much to fathom.
USA TODAY says *** stars. “Somehow (Williams) has managed to pull hilarity out of heartache.”
The Locals by Jonathan Dee; Random House, 400 pp.; fiction
A rich New Yorker moves to a working-class town in the Berkshires in Massachusetts and upends the order of things.
USA TODAY says ***½ stars. “Captivating… (Dee’s) characters are vivid, and the emotions raw.”
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Sour Heart by Jenny Zhang; Lenny/Random House; 301 pp.; fiction
Seven stories about Chinese-American girls from Brooklyn poet Jenny Zhang, in the first book published by Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner under their new Lenny imprint.
USA TODAY says *** stars. Zhang’s stories “are coarse and funny, sweet and sour, told in language that’s rough-hewn yet pulsating with energy.”
Contributing reviewers: Brian Truitt, Mark Athitakis, Charisse Jones, Ray Locker, Jocelyn McClurg
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