Chouette by Claire Oshetsky
“You’re my fate and you’re my dire necessity. You’re my refuge when I’m lost, and losing you would kill me. Your flights and falls are dreamlike and perfect and I’m blessed to be the one to witness them.”
This novel was one of my many impulsive book purchases inspired by a beautiful cover.
I skimmed the synopsis on my way to the register, and the mention of an “owl-baby” was intriguing enough to convince me it was worth buying. I’m a proud dog and cat mom, but since I don’t have any human children of my own, I was worried that I wouldn’t connect to or completely understand this novel. Although I’m sure mothers will get even more out of Chouette than I did, I still found it an intense and creative look into the emotions that come with every step of birthing and raising a child.
Tiny is pregnant, and her husband could not be more thrilled, but this is in no way a normal pregnancy. Instead, Tiny is expecting an “owl-baby,” conceived from a secret rendezvous with a female “owl-lover.” However, her husband believes Tiny is just experiencing pregnancy jitters and that their child will be born perfectly normal.
When Chouette is born small and with broken wings, Tiny devotes all of her time to meeting her daughter’s needs. With a child more predator than baby, she vows to raise Chouette to be her genuine and authentic self. Even when Chouette’s behavior turns violent and bizarre, Tiny’s love and commitment to her daughter never falters.
Eventually, Tiny’s husband forces Chouette into starting a treatment that will “cure” her, and Tiny is required to make a huge decision: Should her daughter be raised to fit in or be herself?
Chouette is Claire Oshetsky‘s first novel, and it succeeded in making me an immediate fan.
It feels like a dark, feminist fairytale with just a touch of suburban gothic. Oshetsky describes her debut novel as being inspired by her experience raising non-conforming children and being autistic herself. As a result, scenes in Chouette will feel familiar to any reader who is part of a family that experiences disability or neurodiversity.
Disability as a horror trope can quickly turn tasteless and offensive, but that isn’t the case with Chouette. As a whole, Chouette is an exhilarating allegory for a mother’s love and its ability to crush society’s failure to accept anything peculiar.
With moments of dark humor breaking up the strange yet beautiful narrative, I wouldn’t be surprised if you devour this book with the same voracity I did. The characters and vivid imagery weaseled into my dreams for weeks. There’s enough here that even non-mothers can feel the intense love that grows from raising a child. Mistakes will be made, disagreements with one’s partner are inevitable, and the time will come when children must leave home and strike out on their own. Oshetsky masterfully presents this journey into motherhood for every type of reader.
Order a copy of Chouette from Bookshop Benicia and sip on this less conventional rosemary cocktail while you immerse yourself in the strange suburb Oshetsky drops you in.
Smoky Rosemary and Scotch
(for the rosemary syrup)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 tbsp rosemary
(for the cocktail)
1 sprig dried rosemary
2 0z scotch whisky
½ oz green chartreuse liqueur
¼ oz rosemary syrup
(make the rosemary syrup)
- In a small saucepan, bring the water to a slow boil.
- Add the sugar and stir until it’s entirely dissolved.
- Reduce heat, add the rosemary, and cover the pan. Let simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Remove the pan from the heat, let cool, then strain out the rosemary and bottle the syrup in a glass jar.
- Keep refrigerated. It will keep for 2 weeks.
(make the cocktail)
- Smoke a coupe glass: light the dried rosemary sprig on fire, extinguish the flame, and place it inside the glass.
- Fill a mixing glass with ice, scotch, green chartreuse, and rosemary syrup. Stir well. 3. Remove dried rosemary sprig and strain the cocktail into the glass.
- Lay back (with a good book) and enjoy!
Check our Instagram (@beniciabooktails) for the grapefruit rosemary mocktail!