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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 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 single writers of our time.


'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
This book is stupendously good. It practically vibrates in its ferocious frankness, and is so funny too that one can't help but fall for this voice, even in the pain, because of the pain, with the pain. A marvel.
Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake and The Butterfly Lampshade
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness is a white knuckle ride through everything the word love can mean. The shattered lives of the author's mother and father, tenderly retrieved into the story in their own words, are revelatory of the ways in which we and those who form us strive over whole lifetimes to reconcile love with freedom. A novel that celebrates acceptance, curiosity, and the vitality of the individual mind. I loved it.
Polly Clark, author of Tiger
Claire Vaye Watkins has written a novel about the most frightening creature in America: a bad mother...an audaciously candid story about the crush of conflicted feelings that a baby inspires...Watkins's book sparks the same electric jolt that The Awakening must have sent juicing through Kate Chopin's readers in 1899... It's no coincidence that much of this story takes place in the American desert, a territory that burns away ornament and affectation. Here, on the terrain where she began, Claire sloughs off the skin of a life that doesn't fit her and begins to discover one that might. It's a painful transformation, but utterly captivating to witness.
Ron Charles, Washington Post
I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness sears with a relentless electricity that vibrates its way into you and permanently changes something in your cells. In Watkins's psychospiritual desert, to choose darkness means you could weep with ecstasy as easily as from anguish. A visionary work that imagines motherhood into audacious and complex possibility.
Rachel Yoder, author of Night Bitch
An exploration of grief, freedom and madness
Harper's Bazaar