I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness

Riverhead. Oct. 2021. 304p. ISBN 9780593330210. $27. F
Watkins (Gold Fame Citrus) uses her own life and family background as a basis for this dark, gritty, unsparing odyssey of a young woman in search of herself and the root of her unhappiness. After Claire goes to her native Nevada for a speaking engagement, she avoids returning home to her husband and infant daughter. Instead she spends months revisiting former homes and haunts, taking lovers, getting high, and having various surreal adventures and disasters. Early in the novel, readers learn of her father’s experiences as part of the Manson Family and her mother’s decline and eventual death from opioid addiction. Letters sent from her mother as a teenager to a cousin are interspersed throughout Claire’s narrative.
VERDICT Watkins is fearless in her depictions, particularly of the character based on herself; she makes no attempt to help the reader sympathize with her actions, which initially feel selfish and immature. But as the layers of the past and present are peeled away, one can understand how she’s been traumatized and begin to admire her grit and determination to be true to herself. In the end, the narrative calls to mind Rabbit, Run as well as works from the Beat Generation but reflected through a feminist, millennial lens.
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