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Publisher's Summary

Named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, Vogue, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, Esquire, and Kirkus 

“There’s some kind of genius sorcery in this novel. It’s startlingly original, hilarious and harrowing by turns, finally transcendent. Watkins writes like an avenging angel. It's thrilling and terrifying to stand in her wake.” (Jenny Offill, author of Dept. of Speculation and Weather)

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.

©2021 Claire Vaye Watkins (P)2021 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Intense, intelligent, and bristly...angry and alive...a virtuoso performance.” (The New York Times Book Review)

“An audaciously candid story.... Watkins’s book sparks the same electric jolt that The Awakening must have sent juicing through Kate Chopin’s readers in 1899.” (The Washington Post)

“A tour-de-force.... Much of motherhood literature can radiate a sort of wounded egotism, as if the greatest crime that society might commit against a woman were to think ill of her. Watkins, though, neither stews nor panders. She just follows her light.” (The New Yorker)

What listeners say about I Love You but I've Chosen Darkness

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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strange

“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.

4 people found this helpful

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Hits right. This is the new American Western.

I am going to buy copies of this book and hand them out to every one of my friends. Then I am going to wait for them to come back to me with either OMFG we need to make an altar and worship Claire Vaye Watkins OR WTF did you give this to me for? I am going to take the first group of friends on a crazy retreat in Tecopa and never tell the second group. The event will not be televised.

When you know, you know. I am not sure if this book distills universal truth or was just written for me.

On a random note:
I literally BEGGED a surgeon to give me the biohazard bag that contained the teeth and hair from my dermoid cyst. The author is a freaking genius - I think about my beloved cyst all the time.

3 people found this helpful

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Not what I expected

I totally understand that my misunderstanding of what this novel about has no effect on the caliber of the book. But after a thorough history of the Manson cult, I truly thought I had started the wrong book. It wasn't bad. Just some stuff made me tilt my head in confusion. A lot. The narration was good. Story was strange.

2 people found this helpful

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Just wow!

Stunning book and stunning performance. I will be sitting with this for a long time.

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Self Absorbed

A better title for this book would be 'I Love You But I've Chosen Self-Absorption'

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Overall wouldn’t recommend

I guess I wasn’t sure what I was expecting from this book. All of the small stories the main character mentioned seemed so random. I couldn’t connect with this book at all, and I’m from Las Vegas born and raised. I guess that’s the only part I connected with. It was hard to get through, but I finished it because it was part of our book club. Definitely an acquired taste.

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Could not get into this book!

Maybe it’s a different style, But the other didn’t make me care enough by the character in the beginning. Tried to listen to it several times couldn’t do it.

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Poorly written and conceived story

Are there no editors anymore? I’m not sure how this mess got published. Since the brilliantly written “The Glass Castle” by Jeannette Walls became a huge hit, it seems people feel they can write a book about their dysfunctional family whether to make a buck or for much needed therapy. I thought this was a book about a woman’s journey but which woman? Is this a book about the author or, Martha, her mom? Mom was more interesting and her journey from child to teen to wife, mother, young widow, scammer/thief is far more interesting (although not in that order as this book is all over the place). The title is misleading because it makes the reader think the author loves her husband and daughter and is suffering from postpartum depression (aka the "Darkness"). The reality is she’s in an open marriage, doesn’t love her husband and child, and the only darkness is being tied to a conventional life. You know, where you have responsibilities. If you want to read a well-written book about a dysfunctional family then read, “The Glass Castle.” That book grabs you from the first sentence and takes you on a colorful and vivid journey. It shows you that regardless of how some people may have started out in life, you can rise above and make something of yourself. Very inspiring. This book is the opposite of that on every level.

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    1 out of 5 stars

waste of money

Struggled to finish, it was so poorly written and the story was noy easy to follow.

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Couldn't follow, not as existed - had to return

I'm not a picky "reader" ... the narrator of this story was good, and I didn't mind the strange and obscure (and sometimes offensive) content, but this book was just ALL OVER THE PLACE ... jumping from present day/main character, to her father's life story, her mother's letters, her ex boyfriend's tale, her grandmother, etc etc etc... I finally couldn't take it anymore with only about an hour or two left, I just didn't care where it was going...
I THOUGHT I was reading a book about a mother who left her husband and child to find a life for herself, but that's really NOT what this was about, it was just strange and not well written.