Tallent sets the scene in the opening paragraphs. "The old house hunkers on its hill, all peeling white paint, bay windows, and spindled wooden railing overgrown with climbing roses and poison oak...The gravel drive is littered with spent casings caked in verdigris...In the living room, one window is boarded over, sheet metal and half-inch plywood bolted to the frame and covered in rifle targets. The bullet clustering is so tight it looks like someone put a ten gauge right up to them and blew the centers out; the slugs glint in their ragged pits like water at the bottom of wells."
Clearly, this is not a typical home, much less an appropriate place for a widower to be raising his teen-age daughter. But Martin Alveston and his daughter Turtle are not a typical family, and their relationship is not appropriate in any way. Turtle is the center of Martin's world, and he does everything in his power to ensure that he is the center of hers. He abuses her physically, sexually and psychologically. These scenes are graphic and difficult to read, but a crucial part of Turtle's story.
"The boys talk in a way that is alarming and exciting to her--fantastical, gently celebratory, silly...She feels brilliantly included within that province of things she wants, lit up from within by possibility. ...A new world is opening up for her. She thinks, these boys will be there when I go to high school. She thinks, and what would that be like--to have friends there, to have friends like this?"
Turtle's introduction to Jacob and Brett is a turning point as she begins to truly envision a different life for herself. But Martin is not going to let her go easily. In a particularly terrifying scene, Martin burns a souvenir Turtle has kept from her time with the boys. He uses a poker to push around the remains.
|Author Gabriel Tallent|