“I love being in the company of these other mothers, who all have special babies of their very own…Each of us knows from experience that birthing any child is the start of a lifelong terrorization by the very child we love, and yet we mothers are able to bear it because we love our children more than our own lives even as our children blithely seek to destroy us,” (Oshetsky 162).
A few days after dreaming she has made love to a female owl, Tiny learns she has pregnant. Her husband is overjoyed but Tiny is panicked because she knows that she is going to give birth to an owl-baby, and lo and behold she does. When her owl-baby Chouette is born Tiny falls in love with her daughter just the way she is, but her husband will do anything to ensure his daughter is “normal.”
I’ve now read two books within a few months of each other which talk about motherhood in comparison to animals despite the fact that I am not a mother, which isn’t a lot, but it’s still weird, right? Regardless, both were unique, memorable, and fantastic books that I’m glad I read. I will say I struggled with Chouette at the beginning and I was completely lost during the last chapter. The story is bizarre and surreal, and it’s best to just accept what we are being told from the start. Tiny is pregnant with her female owl lover’s owl-baby, a strange sentence if there ever was one but the story is best enjoyed by embracing it’s surreal, magical realism nature.
Chouette is written in second person with the story being directed at the owl-baby/Chouette, the reader. I’m not a big fan of second person narration unless it’s done well and luckily Oshetsky excels in it here. I can’t imagine of any other way Chouette could have been written, the second person voice fits so well and makes the plot move smoothly. The writing is lovely with a lot of sound imagery and mentioning of famous musical pieces, which Oshetsky gives a list of at the end of the novel for any reader who wants to hear what Tiny does. Oshetsky also does a wonderful job showing the difficulties of motherhood, the fierce love and desire to protect their child, the exhaustion and loss of identity that often comes with motherhood, as well as some of the more difficult feelings like resentment and anger which are also valid.
I had suspected while reading Chouette that the novel was a metaphor of being a mother to a special needs or disabled child, and this article all but proves it is (I would wait to read it until reading the book as there are some spoilerish things that give more insight once finished reading.). I think Oshetsky does a wonderful job telling this perspective of motherhood with the metaphor of an owl-baby, it’s done with such care, such thought, such pain, and such honesty. It’s a look at motherhood that often gets ignored by narratives on motherhood or is seen through a heroic or martyred lens.
Chouette is a lyrical, moving, and fierce novel that is both bizarre and unforgettable. Oshetsky has created a unique voice of motherhood that often doesn’t get talked about and I’m glad she’s brought this perspective into the world.
Publication: November 16th 2021
Pages: 256 pages (Hardcover)
Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism, LGTBQ*,
My Rating: ⛤⛤⛤⛤
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.