Chouette - book cover
Women's Fiction
  • Publisher : Ecco
  • Published : 16 Nov 2021
  • Pages : 256
  • ISBN-10 : 006306667X
  • ISBN-13 : 9780063066670
  • Language : English


"Claire Oshetsky's novel is a marvel: its language a joy, its imagination dizzying." -Rumaan Alam, New York Times bestselling author of Leave the World Behind

An exhilarating, provocative novel of motherhood in extremis

Tiny is pregnant. Her husband is delighted. "You think this baby is going to be like you, but it's not like you at all," she warns him. "This baby is an owl-baby."

When Chouette is born small and broken-winged, Tiny works around the clock to meet her daughter's needs. Left on her own to care for a child who seems more predatory bird than baby, Tiny vows to raise Chouette to be her authentic self. Even in those times when Chouette's behaviors grow violent and strange, Tiny's loving commitment to her daughter is unwavering. When she discovers that her husband is on an obsessive and increasingly dangerous quest to find a "cure" for their daughter, Tiny must decide whether Chouette should be raised to fit in or to be herself-and learn what it truly means to be a mother.

Arresting, darkly funny, and unsettling, Chouette is a brilliant exploration of ambition, sacrifice, perceptions of ability, and the ferocity of motherly love.

Editorial Reviews

"Searing and ethereal…. [Chouette focuses] squarely on Tiny's fierce love as she battles her husband and nature to allow Chouette to be wild and exact, stakes that feel frightening and true to life…. A harrowing and magnificent fable." -- New York Times Book Review

"Oshetsky's book is surrealism at its best…. "Chouette," which abounds with humor and lush imagery, forces parents to consider their relationship with their children…. The book has deep and universal resonance." -- San Francisco Chronicle

"Weirdly funny and bold, this novel will make you look at maternal sacrifice in a new way." -- Real Simple

"By turns poetic, gory, heartbreaking and strange…. An engrossing, surreal portrayal of motherhood." -- NPR

"It would not surprise me if Chouette finds a place in the feminist literary canon. It has lingered in my mind in a way that only the most original works do. In its exploration of difference – of disability, of queerness – it feels truly modern, but in its themes of love and sacrifice, it is the oldest tale in the world." -- The Guardian

"Viscous, tender, baffling, and glorious, Chouette is an unforgettable fairy tale that glitters darkly with Oshetsky's raw and soaring brilliance. Part love letter, part lament, Chouette astonishes as each perfected sentence burrows deep into the maternal shadows of love, possession, selfhood, and sanity. A bone-deep, breathtaking wonder."  -- Rachel Yoder, author of Nightbitch

"Oshetsky's writing is virtuosic, laced with dry humor, and perfectly matched to the parable she unfolds…. A fever dream of a novel that will enchant fans of contemporary fabulism." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Chouette is deeply felt, linguistically gorgeous, and wonderfully disorienting up to its final breathless pages-a stunning meditation on motherhood and identity truly unlike anything I've ever read before."  -- Claire Lombardo, author of The Most Fun We Ever Had

"A Dantean journey through the violent fever dreams of a woman in the trials of pregnancy and early motherhood…. No reader who has cared for a tiny human being will fail to recognize the battleground this talented author has conjured." -- Publishers Weekly

"Claire Oshetsky's novel is a marvel: its language a joy, its imagination dizzying. Every time I thought I had cracked Chouette's central metaphor-aha, it's about motherhood! No, marriage! No, music!-the book flew out my grasp like a wary bird. It's a truly exhilarating read." -- Rumaan Alam, author of Leave the World Behind

Readers Top Reviews

Joanna JCS
Chouette is a highly original yet deeply disturbing debut novel which explores the wilder side of motherhood. It’s definitely not my usual kind of book, and I don’t remember what led me to request it - a mention in one of my Facebook groups perhaps. It’s more literary than the genres I usually pick, and the whole thing is like an exquisitely vivid bad dream. Did I enjoy it? Not much. Would I recommend it? Yes if you’re into contemporary dark magical realism, and are either a secure & happy mother, or child-free. Tiny is a professional cellist from California who is happily married to a steady patent lawyer. When she discovers that she is pregnant, she warns her husband that she is carrying an Owl-baby, and initially she is desperate to terminate it, but he is thrilled at the prospect of finally becoming a father, and she is convinced to continue. Then the baby is born and while everyone else sees a child with significant abnormalities, Tiny embraces her role as Chouette’s mother with horrifying glee, determined to allow her to be herself, red in tooth and claw… 3-star reviews are always the hardest to write. My rating has to reflect MY feelings, but I don’t want to put off readers who might love it. It’s quite short - about 250 pages/ 3 hours, beautifully written if you don’t mind the second person present narrative style, and easy to read apart from the frequent descriptions of the deaths of small animals - including several pets - animal lovers beware. Like most literary fiction, it’s open to interpretation - I’m generally not good at this part which is why I generally avoid it. There’s the typical open ending, and I’m sure there’s lots that went over my head. Others have commented on the random insertion of French words and phrases, this didn’t bother me as I’m reasonably fluent in that language, but it would’ve annoyed me if I were not. There’s a lot about classical music which didn’t mean much to me either, but the cover image is stunning! The subject of how a mother can love an unloveable child has featured in two of the most controversial books I can remember reading - We need to talk about Kevin, and Baby Teeth/Bad Apple. It’s such a taboo topic that it takes a brave female author to go there. Is Tiny mentally ill, or is this all fantasy, or allegory? You could read it any way you like. Is she right, in her fierce determination to protect her child’s uniqueness, including from her bewildered husband’s obsessive quests to “cure” their daughter of her problem? Or is she the abuser, Chouette surviving in spite of rather than because of what most would see as very strange parenting. This is certain to be a popular choice for book clubs everywhere and will polarise readers just as those two books did. It’s certainly not for everyone, and I recommend reading a range of reviews before deciding whether to commit. I l...
Delve into the imagination of Claire Oshetsky - a brilliant piece of art with beautiful, sometimes brutal (but hey that's life and art), imagery. My favorite kind of art shows me something I've never seen before - and this masterful work delivers. I think it is best left to the author to spin this story - all I knew going in was that a woman has an affair with her owl lover and has an owl baby - magical realism ensues. This is an utterly original page-turner - and a quick read at around 200 pages - which encourages the reader to really savor the language. Kudos to everyone involved from agent, editor, publisher for supporting this gem - and bringing it to the minds of fellow creative souls in want of nourishment.

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