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I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness will cover motherhood, cults, drugs, and more.

By Seija Rankin
April 08, 2021 at 09:00 AM EDT
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I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
Credit: Penguin

EW described Claire Vaye Watkins' most recent novel, 2015's Gold Fame Citrus, as "psychedelic and scarily real." Her highly anticipated next book will deliver on that same promise — with so much more. EW has the first look at I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, which hits shelves Oct. 5 and follows a woman's emotional reckoning with motherhood and all that comes with it (work, marriage, sex, you name it). We know what you're thinking: Where do the psychedelics come in? We're getting to it.

As the novel opens, the protagonist — a writer — boards a plane en route to a speaking engagement in Reno, Nev., for which she has left her young daughter at home with her husband. A case of postpartum depression, which had been lying semi-dormant, begins to creep in, furthering her emotional distance from the life she left behind. In Reno she confronts ghosts of all kinds: the literal (an ex from her past who died young) and the metaphysical (her father, a member of a famous cult, and her mother, who is an addict).

In the below excerpt, Watkins shares the opening pages of the book, in which we meet the narrator and see the beginnings of her struggle with her newly mothered life.

Excerpt from 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, here in my garden with Moana, Lucky, Abigail and Boomerang, each naked except for Boomerang, who is cinched into a blue plastic saddle. The "garden" hardly merits the word by the standards of the house-proud resource-hoarding whites I must count myself among. My garden is mostly rock and dirt, wild, needless as Moana with so many sticks in her hair. Lucky and Abigail are Netflix properties. They have no sticks in their hair, for my daughter gave them butch haircuts last time she was here.

The story starts at some point in my daughter's first year, the point perhaps at which I became aware of my inability to feel any feelings beyond those set to music by The Walt Disney Company. I'd banned Disney, its toxic messages and bankrupt values, forbid it my child long before conceiving her. Yet there I was listening to the Moana soundtrack a dozen times a day and digging it, screening the film as often as my infant's budding synapses could bear. No other text moved me as much, with the exception perhaps of Charlotte's Web, particularly the chapter called "Escape," in which Wilbur briefly breaks out of his pen and the Goose, soon to be yoked unmerrily to her eggs, urges him yonder.

The woods! The woods! They'll never never catch you in the woods!

Or maybe it starts before then. Like I said, I've tried to tell it a bunch of times. Each try takes me further from whatever it is I'm after. I finish on an alien shore with a raft of needs, reminded once again that books heal people all the time, just not usually the people who write them.

I promise to need nothing from this last try. It's only a yarn for the dolls.

It starts with my husband, Theo. (I've disguised his name because he is innocent, but disguised it only a little because he is only a little innocent.)

It starts with Theo in a waiting room reading over my shoulder.

  1. Since my baby was born, I have been able to laugh and see the funny side of things.
  2. As much as I ever did.
  3. Not quite as much now.
  4. Not so much now.
  5. Not at all.
  • I have looked forward with enjoyment to things.
  • As much as I ever did.
  • Not quite as much now.
  • Not so much now.
  • Not at all.

"That's kind of evasive," Theo says. "'As much as I ever did.'"

"Do you think I'm being dishonest?"

"No, but…"

"But what, Theo?"

The baby squawks. I rock the car seat with my foot.

"I'm just saying a diagnostic like this shouldn't be multiple choice," Theo says. "It should be short answer. Or essay. Don't you think?"

"a.) As much as I ever did."

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