Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Published by Graywolf Press on October 3, 2017
my rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.75
Goodreads avg: 3.99
cw: basically everything
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
I love weird fiction and I love short stories and I love literature with a feminist slant, so this collection was 100% for me. Machado’s writing is just beautiful and the prose in every piece stands out so strongly. There were only a couple pieces that fell flat for me, the rest of the collection was fairly hard-hitting. I definitely recommend this to everyone, but warn that there are a lot of sensitive topics tackled, so anyone with triggers should proceed with caution.
Brides never fare well in stories. Stories can sense happiness and snuff it out like a candle.
My rating for each story:
Her Body and Other Parties ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Especially Heinous ⭐️⭐️
Real Women Have Bodies ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Eight Bites ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
The Resident ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Difficult at Parties ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
“It’s not that I hate men,” the woman says. “I’m just terrified of them. And I’m okay with that fear.”
I actually had to double-check my math, because it turns out that these scores averaged out to 4.75 stars. I guess the two-star story threw me off. I’m rounding down to 4 on Goodreads because it just doesn’t feel like a five-star collection to me. There was just… something missing. Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It’s just not quite there for me yet. I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for future works of Machado’s.