At just 14 years old, Turtle has already experienced trauma beyond most of us. Martin, her father, is a survivalist misogynist who loves her crookedly and dangerously. This novel is a dedication to seeing the world accurately, without veneer. The level of meticulous and beautiful detail Tallent weaves into his plot means that we miss little. We see it all.
The closest description I can give to the feeling that this novel gave me was the joyful uncertainty of IBS (and I'm sure that Reid will be psyched to know that I've made that comparison). But hear me out. You know something's wrong. You don't know what's causing it, you don't know how it's going to manifest itself - only that it will, and soon. You ain't gonna have any control, and you can't stop it. You feel a bit sick. This novel feels like a slow descent into that same feeling as it begins to spin uncontrollably away from you.
Last weekend, I spent 5 hours trudging through a barren wasteland with a father “the man” and his son “the boy”, watching them starve, make mistakes, fight and protect each other - and the experience damn near killed me. Making us ask the question: What is more important to us - our lives, or our humanity?
On the first page, we learn that ‘Tequila Leila’ (as she’s known to her friends) is not at home, cuddled up in bed and warm, but instead she lies dead in a metal rubbish bin on the outskirts of Istanbul - a city which lives and breathes its own personality as loudly as the characters that live within it. We feel immediate devastation that this woman, a person who Elif describes with intimate detail, has met her end here. As Leila herself says: “She could not believe that her mortal existence was over and done with [...] Last night she had left her fingerprints on a whisky glass …”
My favorite poets are the ones that deal with the raw shit - the bits that make your stomach squelch and ring in your head because you know that at some time, some where, you felt this poem before you read it.