Chouette by Claire Oshetsky - A dark, modern fable about motherhood


"This baby is an owl-baby. If I have this baby, it's going to kill me."

I've recently realized that I own way more un-read books than I thought possible and since getting rid of some of them sends chills to my spine, I've decided I can at least start reading those, instead of constantly keeping my eyes on new releases - or more appealing stories.

Chouette is a book that came in the mail pretty recently - I always have to thank my Publishing Gods out there who always have my back! - and by the premise of it, I was hooked.

I've heard great things about Claire Oshetsky before, especially about her writing style so I obviously had to start from this one.

And what a weird, disorienting rollercoaster it was!

Finding words to describe this book has proven harder than I thought because I'm still not sure of what I've just read. It sounds like a fairytale, a dark, strange, ferocious fairytale but you can clearly see the depths and the hints of reality here and there that made the story even more passionate and fierce, because it grips your heart in its pages, counting on your humanity to feel all the feels.

It's definitely one of those books to read with an open mind, for sure.

The story sees Tiny, our protagonist, who finds out she's pregnant with an owl-baby (what have I told you about being open-minded?) and she's obviously scared like every mother is when expecting their first child, and pondering whether or not she's made to be a mother. She isn't sure she wants to keep this baby, especially because it's not a "normal" baby and it's not her husband's either, and when she decides not to keep it, the baby inside her, suddenly feels more alive than ever, like it already has a mind of its own that pushes her to go back home and adjust to this new life.

I weep a little, to think that the owl-baby chose me and not some other mother who might not have had the stamina to care for such an exceptional young life. I begin to understand what a gift I've been given, to have been chosen for this task.

She leaves her job at the orchestra, she starts feeling different, she thinks differently, she smells different and it feels like her body is not her own anymore and she has no control over it. Until Chouette is born.

Suddenly, her protective instinct takes over and her daughter, an unusual child, becomes all her life.

I'm going to be a mother. I've accepted it. My body is riparian. I'm filled with growing things.

From here, Tiny and her husband's life are forever changed: while she's very protective of her child and does everything to accommodate Chouette's needs - even if it means hunting at night or turning their home into a place where all kinds of animals grow for Chouette to feed on, later on - her husband does everything to give their child a "better life."

But what is a "better life?" Shouldn't parents accept their children as they are? Or should they give them a chance to live a "normal life?" And again, what's "normal?" We're so used to seeing things from our POV that sometimes we forget that "normal" means different things for different people.

Is it okay to do anything that is possible to give a child a chance to walk and talk and be just like any other child? Or it's better to let them be their own way of "normal?" 

Is it okay to look for a permanent fix that would change the nature of your child but would give them independence in return?

What if Chouette doesn't need a fix? What if she is meant to be exactly who she is?

As the story unfolds and things take a turn - or two, or three! - we see Chouette finally becoming herself, wild and free, experiencing - through Tiny's eyes - the heartbreaking moment every mother will inevitably have to face: to live their children to their own destiny. 

I discover, like the birds, that I'm going to make it through this storm.

I'm surprised I like this book so much. If you know me, then you'd know that I particularly love books with good dialogues and often saw myself ditching books entirely for the lack of it. Chouette has barely any dialogue at all but the way it is written, so raw, so poetic, almost like a wild animal you're naturally scared of but at the same time intrigued by, I couldn't put it down.

I needed to know what happens to Chouette, what happens to her parents as a couple, if they would grow or fall apart, how they would accept their child and in what measure. 

This whole metaphor of mothering an unusual child really got me, how it is written, how you could easily see it with your own eyes. 

Tiny's strength and ferocity when it comes to fighting for Chouette's right to be herself, wild thing or not, and the length she goes to defend her rights, a metamorphosis where the child doesn't become what the parents need her to be but it's the parent that changes and becomes more like her child. 

It was striking and painful and sometimes hard to read because of the honesty of its feelings and the harsh way it is presented in front of you, but never boring or lacking. This book is one of a kind.


by Claire Oshetsky 

Tiny is pregnant. Her husband is delighted. "It's not yours," she tells him. "This baby will be an owl-baby." Tiny's always been an outsider, and she knows her child will be different. 

When Chouette is born, Tiny's husband and family are devastated by her condition and strange appearance. Doctors tell them to expect the worst. Chouette won't learn to walk; she never speaks; she lashes out when frightened and causes chaos in public. Tiny's husband wants to make her better: "Don't you want our daughter to have a normal life?" But Tiny thinks Chouette is perfect the way she is. 

As Tiny and her husband fight over what's right for their child, Chouette herself is growing. And in her fierce self-possession, her untameable will, she teaches Tiny to break free of expectations - no matter what it takes. 

Get your copy here.

*This copy has been kindly gifted by Publishers but all opinions are my own.
  1. Maxical Amphitheater30 April 2022 at 06:44

    The cover is so captivating. Thank you for reviewing this book, I'm going to add it to my list! The theme of mothering a strange child sounds so interesting, especially as someone who has always been the "monstrous" child.

    1. Definitely add it to your list! It was such a strange book and the lack of dialogue put me off a little bit but it's short and very lovely and the writing style is so tender, I definitely recommend it!