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A darkly funny, soul-rending novel of love in an epoch of collapse--one woman's furious revisiting of family, marriage, work, sex, and motherhood. Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writ A darkly funny, soul-rending novel of love in an epoch of collapse--one woman's furious revisiting of family, marriage, work, sex, and motherhood. Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. Her temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends mutates into an extended romp away from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the past. Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose self-destruction still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark gutters with every passing year. She can't go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, at last she begins to make herself at home in the world. Bold, tender, and often hilarious, I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness reaffirms Watkins as one of the signal writers of our time.


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A darkly funny, soul-rending novel of love in an epoch of collapse--one woman's furious revisiting of family, marriage, work, sex, and motherhood. Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writ A darkly funny, soul-rending novel of love in an epoch of collapse--one woman's furious revisiting of family, marriage, work, sex, and motherhood. Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things. a) As much as I ever did. b) Not quite as much now. c) Not so much now. d) Not at all. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. Her temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends mutates into an extended romp away from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the past. Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose self-destruction still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark gutters with every passing year. She can't go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, at last she begins to make herself at home in the world. Bold, tender, and often hilarious, I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness reaffirms Watkins as one of the signal writers of our time.

30 review for I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness

  1. 4 out of 5

    Barbara

    2.5 stars: “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness”. Just from the title alone, I was intrigued. It’s billed as a woman trying to cope with being a new mother and a wife. Plus it’s one of the most anticipated novels of the Fall of 2021. Author Claire Vaye Watkins chooses to name her protagonist, well, Claire Watkins. Hmmm…does a work of fiction by an author ever name their main character after themselves??? Is this a memoir??? Watkins uses her life as fodder, and most likely has fun with her reading 2.5 stars: “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness”. Just from the title alone, I was intrigued. It’s billed as a woman trying to cope with being a new mother and a wife. Plus it’s one of the most anticipated novels of the Fall of 2021. Author Claire Vaye Watkins chooses to name her protagonist, well, Claire Watkins. Hmmm…does a work of fiction by an author ever name their main character after themselves??? Is this a memoir??? Watkins uses her life as fodder, and most likely has fun with her reading audience, having us all ponder what is real and what is not. Even the first sentence “I’ve tried to tell this story a bunch of times.” leads the reader to consider. Plus, novel Claire is an author too. In the story, she abandons her infant and husband for a book tour. From the start, we understand that Claire is struggling with motherhood. She takes the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression test, which is hilarious. She ponders, when does postnatal depression become just depression?? The beginning of the story was the funniest to me. Most mothers can empathize with the endeavors of being a new mom with a crying baby. Furthermore, she has an ongoing debate about “The Oregon Trail Generation” which is sandwiched between Gen X and the Millennials. It’s the generation that came of age on the internet. Those who played “The Oregon Trail” and those who parented children who played “The Oregon Trail” understand. It’s an interesting discussion. Lines are crossed between fiction and memoir when novel Claire has the same father as author Claire. And that father was part of the Charles Manson cult. The father wasn’t involved in the notable killings, but he was involved in supplying women/girls to Manson. Let’s say Claire’s young life in a cult most likely influenced her life as a new mother. Where lines are not crossed is book Claire’s obsession with her vagina, specifically teeth that are growing in her vagina. I needed to google this, as it is a thing in mythical format. Yes, cysts can contain teeth (mostly those near the ovaries). Can a woman have a vagina full of teeth? The answer is no, but book Claire’s does. Bizarre, yet I went on. The title of the story came from a boyfriend who had that statement tattooed on his body. The boyfriend had a religious mother who wanted him to be good. Well, he got a tattoo with that statement explaining his feelings. Claire spends time searching for this ex-boyfriend and we get a bit of the backstory. Claire decides that she’s not choosing darkness, but darkness is choosing her. Don’t we all feel that at times?? This is a strange story, and I don’t think I was the intended target audience. I give a full 5 stars to the title. 5 stars for quirkiness. 1 star for format as it was too strange to follow at times (perhaps it’s because I used the audio format). 1 star for falling short of what this story could have been.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    Claire Vaye Watkins has written a novel about the most frightening creature in America: a bad mother. “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness” is an audaciously candid story about the crush of conflicted feelings that a baby inspires — particularly for a woman who regards the nursery as a place where ambition, freedom and sex die. This late in the history of feminism that theme may sound too familiar, but Watkins’s book sparks the same electric jolt that “The Awakening” must have sent juicing throug Claire Vaye Watkins has written a novel about the most frightening creature in America: a bad mother. “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness” is an audaciously candid story about the crush of conflicted feelings that a baby inspires — particularly for a woman who regards the nursery as a place where ambition, freedom and sex die. This late in the history of feminism that theme may sound too familiar, but Watkins’s book sparks the same electric jolt that “The Awakening” must have sent juicing through Kate Chopin’s readers in 1899. Here is a novel to hate and to love, to make you feel simultaneously disgusted and unloosed. The plot of “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness” is surreal but perhaps no more surreal than pregnancy itself. In that sense, Watkins has merely given full voice to the sudden disorientation of motherhood, which is so often muffled beneath a crocheted bunny blanket of sentimentality. “She was a. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Marion

    I just want to say that I feel incredibly weird being the first review here, but I just read this in two feverish sittings so I feel I should channel that energy and review this so I can convince you to read this brilliant novel. What I truly want to do is write a hundred page close reading analysis, but I don’t think you want that and I have a full time job. So I’ll make my gushing, five-star review as brief as possible! In short: I can’t stop thinking about this book. It was extraordinary. I f I just want to say that I feel incredibly weird being the first review here, but I just read this in two feverish sittings so I feel I should channel that energy and review this so I can convince you to read this brilliant novel. What I truly want to do is write a hundred page close reading analysis, but I don’t think you want that and I have a full time job. So I’ll make my gushing, five-star review as brief as possible! In short: I can’t stop thinking about this book. It was extraordinary. I feel like I just had a really intense, meandering conversation with an old friend who needed to unload their uneasy mind about their family, their friends, their lovers, and their career while also reckoning with their childhood in the American desert. The narrator is difficult, sometimes mean, melancholy, and magnetic. She is also wry, ironic, and desperate. She has had a traumatic past and is confronting an uncertain future while being a new mother, and all of that pain, grief, and regret was so visceral. She desires the fullness of life and love, but cruelty of death and grief warps this for her. This dissonance leads her to not always make the right decision, but you come to know why and learn to understand her. I was so enthralled with her and her journey. About a third of the way through I had a revelation that I do not want to spoil for people who don’t know who Watkins is (I didn’t before this book! But I’m so glad I do now!) because I think readers need to realize it for themselves. (Slight Spoilers for those who wish to know what I’m talking about….this is autofiction! Some quick googling confirmed some details and to say my mind was blown was an understatement.) The prose is intense and dark and funny, and it moved me to tears. The tangents, the poetry, the sharpness all made this wild, beautiful novel profound. There is a palpable pain within these lines that is unlike anything that I have read because of how long it lingers. Watkins spent years on this book, and you can tell because it is so well crafted. Some of those lines are just utter perfection! Since finishing this book I have read some essays by Watkins and highly recommend reading “On Pandering” which is on Tin House’s website. I can’t wait to read her other books! Oh and I received this ARC in an exchange for an honest review!

  4. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    DNF at 82 pages. I can't. I hate this so much. DNF at 82 pages. I can't. I hate this so much.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Greg Zimmerman

    4.5 So I don't mind admitting I'm superficial enough that I read this novel based almost solely on its incredibly awesome title. Hey, there are a lot worse reasons to pick up a novel. Here's how it started: Me, after about 10 pages: Ah, man is this gonna be just another one of these self-indulgent, self-important pieces of autofiction? Here's how it's going: Also me, halfway through, and riveted: Okay, yeah, it is, but it's also really good! If you do some googling, you'll learn that the real-pers 4.5 So I don't mind admitting I'm superficial enough that I read this novel based almost solely on its incredibly awesome title. Hey, there are a lot worse reasons to pick up a novel. Here's how it started: Me, after about 10 pages: Ah, man is this gonna be just another one of these self-indulgent, self-important pieces of autofiction? Here's how it's going: Also me, halfway through, and riveted: Okay, yeah, it is, but it's also really good! If you do some googling, you'll learn that the real-person writer Claire Vaye Watkins' father really was one of Charles Manson's right-hand men, and this novel gives a long story about her/the narrator's parents, how they met, etc., right at the beginning. So right off the bad the autofiction/memoir line is a little blurred. In these autofiction novels that seem to be so trendy these days, you always wonder where the line between reality and fiction is, which I realize is not productive to your reading experience. But I can't help it. It sort of feels like you're being tricked a little, but not in a nefarious way. (Of course, to most writers, readers trying to figure out what's real and not is beside the point — and in fact, is probably supremely irritating to them.) Anyway, that line is further blurred because the rest of the novel is about a character named Claire Vaye Watkins (also a writer). The character Claire and her husband have just had a baby, and now has had enough — she feels trapped, confined, and felled by postpartum depression. When she travels to her hometown of Reno for an author event, she hangs out with some of her old friends, does mushrooms, and slowly realizes she can't go back to her former life. So now what? That's what the rest of the novel is — her just trying (or not really trying, just drifting) to figure out her life. All the while, she contemplates a series of letters her mother, who has since died of a opioid overdose, wrote to her mother's cousin (reproduced between chapters) when her mother was a teenager in Las Vegas in the 1970s. And we see the apple maybe hasn't fallen far from the tree. Yes, so once you get past trying to figure out what's fiction and not, you'll find a really sharply written story about returning to your roots. When you start slowly deviating from who you think you are, how do you get back to who you want yourself to be? I enjoyed this -- a lot more than I thought I might after the first few pages. It's an acutely observed, quickly paced, clever, often funny, often raunchy, and really entertaining read. PS. My favorite quote from the novel: "Love is a fucking hassle." PSS. My second favorite quote from the novel: "I am not choosing darkness but darkness is choosing me."

  6. 5 out of 5

    Bonnie G.

    This is so filled with self-loathing that I expected to end up feeling more sympathy for Claire (her name in the book is her own name) than I did. Objectively she is a sympathetic character. Claire was raised by mentally ill unprincipled addicted parents whom she loved, and both of whom died both too early and well after they ought to have done. In the wake of chaos she created a self utterly unconnected to everything in her past. Then she broke, and she broke the people she should have loved an This is so filled with self-loathing that I expected to end up feeling more sympathy for Claire (her name in the book is her own name) than I did. Objectively she is a sympathetic character. Claire was raised by mentally ill unprincipled addicted parents whom she loved, and both of whom died both too early and well after they ought to have done. In the wake of chaos she created a self utterly unconnected to everything in her past. Then she broke, and she broke the people she should have loved and protected. Then she returned to her self -- ashes to ashes, dust to dust, middle of nowhere crazy hippie life to middle of nowhere crazy hippie life, and at some point from brokenness to some form of wholeness. She knits together a dismal disturbing past and a conventional present, the particulars of which are defined by others. This book definitely subscribes to the theory that depression springs not from chemistry but from living a life at odds with what drives us. And so she found her center, but at what cost? Though many a man has left his family to find himself, to find a greater truth, starting with Odysseus, I expect more from women. There, I said it. That might be anti-feminist, but I don't think so. I don't want feminism that encourages woman to sink down into the narcissistic suck of white American manhood. That does not move us foreword. I always have difficulty with autofiction, not knowing what is real and what is fantasy. But here it worked. For me autofiction done best uses fiction to get to truths a straight recitation of fact would not reveal, and I think Watkins did that. She is a wonderful writer, and she tells a story (her story?) that touches on larger truths. I think Watkins achieves that "larger truths" goal here in part simply by using autofiction. I know that sounds confusing, but the way I see it the major point of this tale is that you need not make choices. You live in tune with your inner voice and exclude nothing. You can be a partner and a slut (I use that term in a non-pejorative sense), a mother and a self-involved loner, an artist and an academic, a narcististic shitheel and a generous friend. So if the larger truth is that one need not make choices, that one action does not in anyway predestine the next, the use of autofiction - not choosing between fiction and non - highlights that. It truly serves the point of the book. I enjoyed the read, The writing itself is beautiful, the story compelling (if also off-putting) and often quite amusing, and there is a real sense the author accomplished exactly what she set out to do. That is a lot. But boy do I feel sorry for her ex-husband and daughter (FWIW I think she does too.) If you need a main character you are going to end up liking I suspect you should steer clear. This one will never understand that her version of love only feels good to her and completely disregards the needs of the poor people she purports to love, and therefore isn't love at all.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    I've just reread my 2015 review of Claire Vaye Watkins's collection of short stories, Battleborn, so forgive me for quoting myself here, but my thoughts after reading I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness are exactly the same: "Stories I admired, but with which I felt very little emotional connection. Exceptional technique, but curiously absent of heart. The characters were distant, disheartened, sad creatures, dried up, like hollows in the desert where water once stood." This work of autobiographic I've just reread my 2015 review of Claire Vaye Watkins's collection of short stories, Battleborn, so forgive me for quoting myself here, but my thoughts after reading I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness are exactly the same: "Stories I admired, but with which I felt very little emotional connection. Exceptional technique, but curiously absent of heart. The characters were distant, disheartened, sad creatures, dried up, like hollows in the desert where water once stood." This work of autobiographical fiction opens with an aching consideration of postpartum depression and I'd hoped for a reflective exploration into the resistance of love and betrayal of body and soul demanded by the arrival of a child. The ambivalence of motherhood, both the main character's distorted-by-exhaustion love for her daughter and her mother's disregard for the author and her two sisters, remains a theme throughout this bitter and brittle fiction-not fiction. But after a detour into her father's embrace of and spinning away from the cult of Charles Manson, the abandonment by the narrator of her daughter is only slyly touched on, a distraction from her own seeking of pleasure and a return to the way things were — when she could write and have affairs with abandon, without guilt or a sense of responsibility to anyone (why oh why did you have a child? Get a fucking goldfish). The defiance in the looping, aimless narrative is dulled by the inexplicable inclusion of her mother's letters to her cousin, which feel like filler and are easily skipped. It is further lost in a series of pointless conversations with her friends and former roommates — Millennial ramblings full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. Claire Faye Watkins is a crazy-good writer. I was mesmerized by Gold Fame Citrus and I'll sign up to read anything she writes. This novel/memoir offers brilliant touches of Joan Didion and Rachel Cusk in its clear-eyed questioning of motherhood, feminism, and what it means to be a writer, and its depiction of landscapes that scald and shape us. I just didn't care what happened to the narrator or really even want to be in the same room with her.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Summer Reads

    3.5 stars Claire has just given birth to her child and is suffering from post-partum depression. She travels to her hometown of Reno, Nevada for an author's event where she meets up with some former friends, eats some mushrooms, and hallucinates in the desert. Suddenly Claire realizes that she does not want to go back to her life of being a mother and wife. I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness is a brilliant fusion of autobiography and fiction. The first part of the book introduces the reader to 3.5 stars Claire has just given birth to her child and is suffering from post-partum depression. She travels to her hometown of Reno, Nevada for an author's event where she meets up with some former friends, eats some mushrooms, and hallucinates in the desert. Suddenly Claire realizes that she does not want to go back to her life of being a mother and wife. I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness is a brilliant fusion of autobiography and fiction. The first part of the book introduces the reader to Claire's parents and how they met. Next up is the story of Claire traveling to Reno while she does some soul searching. The chapters also alternate with a series of letter’s that Claire’s mother wrote before she died of an Opiod overdose. I love it when an author takes a serious topic and does the impossible: makes it humorous. Here, the author has taken motherhood, specifically ppd and made it hilarious. I personally suffered from post partum depression after I had my last child so I found much of what Claire was feeling as highly relateable. Also I feel as if a lot of mothers daydream about doing what Claire did in this story but could not or would not ever do it. Claire Vaye Watkins is a very talented author. This book is wildly imaginative yet brutally raw. Cleverly written and wildly imaginative. I feel as if many women (especially) mothers will find Claire as a kindred spirit and will connect to her beautiful, and honest storytelling. I would highly recommend this book to all readers of literary fiction as well as fans of dark humor. I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness was published on October 5 and is available now. A massive thanks to Riverhead Books for the gifted copy of this extraordinary book!

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kyra Leseberg (Roots & Reads)

    I couldn't wait to get my hands on this release because the title, cover, and summary held so much promise. As someone who suffered postpartum depression, I was ready for this book! Instead, I got a few pages about PPD followed by long rambling chapters about the author's father's ties to Charles Manson and random letters her mother wrote as a teen that had nothing to do with anything. Also, there was something about Watkins growing teeth in her vagina after birth. I'm down with autobiographical I couldn't wait to get my hands on this release because the title, cover, and summary held so much promise. As someone who suffered postpartum depression, I was ready for this book! Instead, I got a few pages about PPD followed by long rambling chapters about the author's father's ties to Charles Manson and random letters her mother wrote as a teen that had nothing to do with anything. Also, there was something about Watkins growing teeth in her vagina after birth. I'm down with autobiographical fiction in theory but this felt more like that kind of literary fiction where it's supposed to be weird and edgy and you feel apologetic for not "getting it" but as a life-long reader I'm going to be honest and just say I found it boring and confusing. For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lilly Bakker

    I really really did not like this book. I was traveling and it’s the only book I had, so I continued on with it. The main character was very unlikeable and I had to guess what was going on for the majority of the book. Seemed just like a random stream of consciousness. Eek. Why are people saying this book is good??? 🥲

  11. 4 out of 5

    Dee

    Perfect for fans of “stream of conscious” writing! Vegas, the desert and feminist- deeply unsettling.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Kelly Page

    a beautiful book, exploring postpartum depression, a dead manson family member, vaginal teeth and a tenure track professor’s escape to the desert. stunningly written with lots of heart in all the ways u can expect from claire vaye watkins. feels very special and personal since much of the novel seems to draw from watkins’s life and the protagonist is named claire vaye watkins too. often simultaneously bleak and hilarious. in the end it wraps up so beautifully i forgave my minor gripes with what a beautiful book, exploring postpartum depression, a dead manson family member, vaginal teeth and a tenure track professor’s escape to the desert. stunningly written with lots of heart in all the ways u can expect from claire vaye watkins. feels very special and personal since much of the novel seems to draw from watkins’s life and the protagonist is named claire vaye watkins too. often simultaneously bleak and hilarious. in the end it wraps up so beautifully i forgave my minor gripes with what felt like a kinda unbalanced narrative structure and the inclusion of dozens of pages of letters the narrator’s mother had written as a girl which i honestly found myself racing thru to get back to the rest of the book. made me want to make my way to the desert too, or to a place as full of the vibrant intergenerational history watkins weaves together into this novel

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    If all fiction has—at its core—fact, and if all fact is, to some degree, fiction, where do you draw the line? Can fact ever equal the imaginative heights of fiction? These are two questions that were in the back of my mind as I approached I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness (what an incredible title!) I first discovered Claire Vaye Watkins in her short story book, Battleborn, an incredible work that borrows (at least in one story) from her family history: her father, Paul Watkins, was a right-han If all fiction has—at its core—fact, and if all fact is, to some degree, fiction, where do you draw the line? Can fact ever equal the imaginative heights of fiction? These are two questions that were in the back of my mind as I approached I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness (what an incredible title!) I first discovered Claire Vaye Watkins in her short story book, Battleborn, an incredible work that borrows (at least in one story) from her family history: her father, Paul Watkins, was a right-hand man for the infamous Charles Manson. And I read with awe her next dystopian book, Gold Fame Citrus. From these books, I knew CVW was willing to go to dark places in service of her fiction. In her new book, her narrator—also named Claire Vaye Watkins—has an incredible amount in common with the author herself. I did not google to find out what was true and what was not, but I suspect there is a great deal of truth (or at least, truthiness). I suspect that because in some parts, it seems that CVW is yoked to the truth, bringing to consciousness “how things really happened” and trying to be an honest narrator. We read in detail about her father’s mercurial life and how quickly he flamed out, about her unstable mother, and about her own ability to bond with her baby daughter. CVW has a lot of unfinished business, or so it seems: digging deeply into her confusing upbringing and flawed parents, confronting teenage loves and false friends, and all her choices—from how to craft her professorship to deciding whether to return to her husband and daughter. Interspersed are letters from her mother Martha, which seem too faithfully rendered. At the end of the day, I had to conclude that CVW – despite a life that is unorthodox and at best, fascinating – is not quite as compelling as her flights of imagination. I felt curiously detached.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Shana Zucker

    Portions of this book have been previously published as stand alone pieces, and that does not surprise me. I LOVED two of them: the post partum depression scale and I love you but I’ve chosen darkness. LOVED them. And I very actively disliked everything else

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Note to self: UK release = Jan. 20, 2022 (Quercus)

  16. 5 out of 5

    Makenzie

    2.5 stars. I found the disjointedness of the narrative and the narrator's disconnect frustrating, but its sense of place, its love for the American West against a backdrop of environmental devastation, is absolutely stunning. "I am not choosing darkness but darkness is choosing me. I am on this dingy beach at Malakoff Diggins. I need waterfalls, hanging lakes tinged pink by tailings. At least the deep worshipful divots where the glaciers used to be. Donner, Marlette, Tahoe's open eye. I see it d 2.5 stars. I found the disjointedness of the narrative and the narrator's disconnect frustrating, but its sense of place, its love for the American West against a backdrop of environmental devastation, is absolutely stunning. "I am not choosing darkness but darkness is choosing me. I am on this dingy beach at Malakoff Diggins. I need waterfalls, hanging lakes tinged pink by tailings. At least the deep worshipful divots where the glaciers used to be. Donner, Marlette, Tahoe's open eye. I see it draining down through the foothills, into Reno and out, disappearing into the Great Basin from which no water escapes, unless you count as escape transmutation into hay, steak, sagebrush, mustangs, bighorns in the Ruby Mountains and beyond those the little town of Ruth."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Erika Lynn (shelf.inspiration)

    5 Stars See more on my Bookstagram: Shelf.Inspiration Instagram “We have loved and loved and been loved despite the fissures and losses, violence, cruelty, smallness, deficits in money and time and attention, despite the betrayals and indifferences, the distance and weather, despite developing different definitions of certain words.” - I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carryin 5 Stars See more on my Bookstagram: Shelf.Inspiration Instagram “We have loved and loved and been loved despite the fissures and losses, violence, cruelty, smallness, deficits in money and time and attention, despite the betrayals and indifferences, the distance and weather, despite developing different definitions of certain words.” - I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. Leaving behind her husband and their baby daughter, a writer gets on a flight for a speaking engagement in Reno, not carrying much besides a breast pump and a spiraling case of postpartum depression. Her temporary escape from domestic duties and an opportunity to reconnect with old friends mutates into an extended romp away from the confines of marriage and motherhood, and a seemingly bottomless descent into the past. Deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she meets her ghosts at every turn: the first love whose self-destruction still haunts her; her father, a member of the most famous cult in American history; her mother, whose native spark gutters with every passing year. She can't go back in time to make any of it right, but what exactly is her way forward? Alone in the wilderness, at last she begins to make herself at home in the world. What can I say about this book besides it was so beautifully written and it possibly is my favorite title name of 2021 so far. I absolutely loved the blend of autobiography and fiction that the author uses to tell her story, the setting and characters included. This story chronicles the character’s life through her adolescence into her present adulthood. It also touches on the history of both her parents, who had interesting lives of their own, and their individual impacts on her. I loved this book because it felt so raw, vulnerable, and introspective. I am definitely planning on reading Claire Vaye Watkins’ previous two books, sooner rather than later! If you love literary fiction that really gets into the mind of the character or love memoir-type stories pick this book up.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sunny

    3.5 white trash daughter of an addict & Charles Manson cult guy turned self aware white polemic academic “finding herself” between enlightenment and shittiness, being a deadbeat mom, trauma, suffering, failing…

  19. 5 out of 5

    Germaine Irwin

    Horrible

  20. 5 out of 5

    Paul

    Surprisingly terrible, roughly the worst novel that an author this talented is capable of writing.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Nicola

    Best book of the year, but it destroyed me

  22. 5 out of 5

    Samantha

    ‘My problem is I can’t figure out how sorry to be for the way I’ve been. I’m either a little sorry, very sorry, or not sorry at all.’

  23. 4 out of 5

    Vincent Scarpa

    Maybe four stars would be more charitable? 3.5? I don’t know. This is a frustrating book — often very beautiful, often tediously boring, sometimes something in between. It felt, more than anything, *due* rather than *finished*; a gathering place for various scraps of essays that CVW has published previously and which read better when they’re not being shimmied into the “structure” of a “novel.” I can’t say I regret reading it — I don’t — but I can’t say I necessarily recommend it, either. Find h Maybe four stars would be more charitable? 3.5? I don’t know. This is a frustrating book — often very beautiful, often tediously boring, sometimes something in between. It felt, more than anything, *due* rather than *finished*; a gathering place for various scraps of essays that CVW has published previously and which read better when they’re not being shimmied into the “structure” of a “novel.” I can’t say I regret reading it — I don’t — but I can’t say I necessarily recommend it, either. Find her essays and read them independently of this book, is my advice.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    Humming with some sort of psychospiritual electrical current, equal parts blinding desert light and annihilating darkness, honest in a way that makes me stop breathing. I loved it.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Gibbs

    Thoroughly dislikable narrator, disjointed plot, and no hope of redemption. Great title, though.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Kim McGee

    A mash-up of postpartum depression, a loss of self and a quest back to childhood roots. A new mom of less than a year leaves the baby at home with dad to attend a conference out west. Once there she takes off on an impromptu escape into the desert to revisit her childhood and previous wild life. Born to freedom seeking hippy parents, one of whom hung out with Charles Manson and family, they moved constantly and had an early introduction to drugs, sex and free thinking. Letting loose of all those A mash-up of postpartum depression, a loss of self and a quest back to childhood roots. A new mom of less than a year leaves the baby at home with dad to attend a conference out west. Once there she takes off on an impromptu escape into the desert to revisit her childhood and previous wild life. Born to freedom seeking hippy parents, one of whom hung out with Charles Manson and family, they moved constantly and had an early introduction to drugs, sex and free thinking. Letting loose of all those responsibilities of motherhood and the relationship back home, she does what she wants to who she wants for as long as she wants. It is honest, gritty and chockfull of dark thoughts. I wanted to slap her and tell her to get her butt back home but still enjoyed her colorful story. My thanks to the publisher for the advance copy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    kyle

    “Pay attention! dont fetishize marriage and babies. dont succumb to the axial tilt of monogamy! i dont pretend to know the details of your situation, but i guarantee you, youre as free as youll ever be. have sex with anyone you want. enjoy the fact that it might happen any minute. you could have sex with a man, a woman, both—tonight! you could have sex with someone twenty years older than you. you could have sex with someone from the other side of the planet. better yet, be alone! enjoy your bod “Pay attention! dont fetishize marriage and babies. dont succumb to the axial tilt of monogamy! i dont pretend to know the details of your situation, but i guarantee you, youre as free as youll ever be. have sex with anyone you want. enjoy the fact that it might happen any minute. you could have sex with a man, a woman, both—tonight! you could have sex with someone twenty years older than you. you could have sex with someone from the other side of the planet. better yet, be alone! enjoy your body, come every day, worship at the altar of the divine goddess. travel! travel everywhere, especially short distances. travel around your kitchen. travel up some stairs and down again. pick up and go. enjoy all the holidays you won’t get anymore—new years eve, halloween.”

  28. 5 out of 5

    Nicole D.

    I told my mother the title of this book and she said "Oh that sounds right up your alley" ... and THEN I found out that the author is the daughter of Paul Watkins who used to be part of the Manson family (he left before the murders.) It was a recipe for a 5-star read. This is autofiction - reminded me a lot of No One Is Talking About This. Watkins is an excellent writer, there were some really interesting aspects of the book. It was amusing at times. Where it was less successful for me - 1. Some o I told my mother the title of this book and she said "Oh that sounds right up your alley" ... and THEN I found out that the author is the daughter of Paul Watkins who used to be part of the Manson family (he left before the murders.) It was a recipe for a 5-star read. This is autofiction - reminded me a lot of No One Is Talking About This. Watkins is an excellent writer, there were some really interesting aspects of the book. It was amusing at times. Where it was less successful for me - 1. Some of this has been written/published before and put into the book. That's fine. But felt a little self-indulgent. Almost like a hard drive dump. What felt even more self-indulgent and FAR less interesting, was letters written by the authors mother to her cousin or aunt? in the 60's. I found those parts to be mind-numbing. Perhaps they were interesting to a younger generation, but I wrote those kinds of letters in that time frame and I didn't think they added anything to the story. At. All. Finally, this is my own personal thing but I don't like reading about drugs, drugs use, abuse, addition, etc. and there was a lot of that. In spite of all that, it was interesting and entertaining.

  29. 4 out of 5

    smalltownbookmom

    This book won't be for everyone but I really enjoyed the mental health, postpartum, motherhood, stream of consciousness style. Told more as a series of short stories (many of the chapters were published previously in other places), the story follows new mother Claire as she escapes her domestic duties and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, reflection and sexual freedom. There's such great mental health representation in this book, told in a darkly funny but raw and honest voice. Highly reco This book won't be for everyone but I really enjoyed the mental health, postpartum, motherhood, stream of consciousness style. Told more as a series of short stories (many of the chapters were published previously in other places), the story follows new mother Claire as she escapes her domestic duties and embarks on a journey of self-discovery, reflection and sexual freedom. There's such great mental health representation in this book, told in a darkly funny but raw and honest voice. Highly recommended for fans of When I ran away, Nightbitch or The nine lives of Rose Napolitano.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jan

    A well-written, semi-autofictional story of a young mother/author who returns home to the desert Southwest seeking love, escape and Lord knows what else. Disjointed storytelling made this difficult to follow on audio, but still, I found the book intriguing and enjoyable, funny in some parts and horrifying in others. Skip this one if you have issues with fictional mothers abandoning their babies.

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