I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins

‘I’ve tried to tell this story a bunch of times. This will be my last try…’ So begins Claire Vaye Watkins’ crackling original novel I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness. Its narrator is a woman called Claire Vaye Watkins. She’s jumping on a flight to Reno, leaving behind her husband and baby. Heavy with postpartum depression and now deep in the Mojave Desert where she grew up, she wrestles with the ghosts of her past. The result is an extraordinary hybrid of autobiography and fiction; a surreal tale of love, sex, death and domesticity at once devastating and darkly funny.

Vaye Watkins blazed onto the writing scene with her multi-award-winning short-story collection Battleborn, which she followed up with the brutal and beautiful novel Gold Fame Citrus. These books burn with the grit and tenderness of the American desert: apocalyptic cocktails of faith, psychedelics and adventure bred from their distinctly harsh environment. I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness is similarly an off-the-grid desert adventure, but one that borrows more from the author’s life than her previous works. Its narrator, Claire, shares the author’s name, age and profession. She also shares the same tumultuous family history – her father Paul was a key member of the Manson cult, her mother Martha an opiate - addict. Both died young, leaving behind larger-than-life legacies and sharp memories that their daughter Claire must reckon with.

Within that reckoning, this book was born – a miraculous, vulnerable work of autofiction charged with wit and candour. I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness is an ambitious account of one woman’s fraught relationship with motherhood, monogamy, and the family ties that feel impossible to shake. This remarkable novel is a breath of fresh air; it’s a feverish trip, a rollercoaster ride and a history lesson all at once, and utterly unlike anything else.

Stella Charls is a bookseller at Readings Carlton.

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I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness

I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness

Claire Vaye Watkins

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