• Palmer Smith

Book Review: Chouette by Claire Oshetsky

Without a doubt, my favorite read of 2022 so far has been Chouette by Claire Oshetsky. This 237 page novel can best be described as a cross genre creation: a bit of magical realism, a bit of fantasy, a bit of imagination mixed with the complexities and realities of motherhood. What is the plot, you ask? Well, my friend, here it goes: Tiny, a talented violinist and married woman, has had an affair with an owl. Yes, an owl. She is pregnant, and everyone around her believes this baby will be a human baby. But it’s not— and she tries to tell them so. No one believes her. And when Chouette (the baby owl) is born, no one but her mother wants to claim her. This is a story about love and motherhood. This is a story about what it means to have the courage to continue to survive despite all odds. It’s about bonding with your child, no matter how difficult being a mother can be. Claire is a prolific writer- no doubt about it. But it is her ability to communicate emotion that has me floored. Parts of this novel are told in first person and others in second person.

“So. This is motherhood. I ponder it. I ponder the lonely, cruel, relentless obligation of motherhood. I ponder the loving, soft, yielding wonder of motherhood. I ponder the mystery of who you are, little stranger, and who you will become...

I love you. I love you. To habituate myself to the idea of loving you, I say it many times. You're ugly. I tried not to think that last thought, but the thought snuck in. It was easier to love you before you were born. I'm afraid of you. You disgust me. I've made a terrible mistake.

I'm your mother.

I chose it.

I love you.

I remind myself that all firstborn things are hideously ugly. We sit and rock together until it grows dark all around. At some point, there in the dark, after staring at you for so long, and after it gets so dark in this room that I can't see you at all, you become very beautiful to me, and I say yes to being your mother.

I say: yes yes yes yes yes yes yes.

Why do I say yes? I'll never know.

It could be of my own free will.

It could be that you've injected me with your little talon. It could be that your talon is dipped in the poison of mother-love.”

Claire Oshetsky, Chouette

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