Claire Vaye Watkins – I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness

Claire Vaye Watkins – I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness

When does a postpartum depression end and a real depression begin? The narrator – coincidentally with the same name and profession as the writer – is exhausted after giving birth. Flying to Reno for a book reading and leaving everything and everybody behind seems to be a good way out of the daily chores for a couple of days. Yet, she decides not to return but to reconnect with her hometown in the Nevada desert. Many people she had forgotten turn up and bring back memories and she questions the road she has taken since she could have chosen a completely different one.

Admittedly, the blurb sounded intriguing and I have read several reviews praising Claire Vaye Watkins’ novel “I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness”. However, for me, it didn’t really work. It is experimental in form and quite often there are lengthy quotations I had difficulties linking to the plot. The narration is strongest when we learn about the new mother’s struggles with her role, the new situation and the feeling of being fatigued. The rest seemed to be a bit messy which might well reflect the narrator’s – any maybe author’s – state of mind.

The book might best be described as an odyssey in which the narrator sails through time and space, searching for her identity which seems to have gone lost with childbirth. She could stop her journey at any moment and go back to her husband and daughter, but she doesn’t. She knows that there will be some nasty encounters and she will see places she only wanted to forget, but something drives her to continue.

Neither could I sympathise with the narrator nor could I really make sense of her adventure. It might be a question of hormones that you can only really understand if you have been in a comparable situation.