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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.

The husband stitch --
Inventory --
Mothers --
Especially heinous --
Real women have bodies --
Eight bites --
The resident --
Difficult at parties

248 pages, Paperback

First published October 3, 2017

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About the author

Carmen Maria Machado's debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, was a finalist for the National Book Award, the Kirkus Prize, LA Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Dylan Thomas Prize, and the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, and the winner of the Bard Fiction Prize, the National Book Critics Circle's John Leonard Prize, and the Crawford Award. In 2018, the New York Times listed Her Body and Other Parties as a member of "The New Vanguard," one of "15 remarkable books by women that are shaping the way we read and write fiction in the 21st century."

Her essays, fiction, and criticism have appeared in the New Yorker, the New York Times, Granta, Tin House, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, The Believer, Guernica, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has been awarded fellowships and residencies from the Michener-Copernicus Foundation, the Elizabeth George Foundation, the CINTAS Foundation, Yaddo, Hedgebrook, and the Millay Colony for the Arts. She is the Writer in Residence at the University of Pennsylvania and lives in Philadelphia with her wife.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 12,061 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
November 10, 2017
This is a difficult review to write because I have a lot of mixed feelings.

Her Body and Other Parties is like most short story collections I have read in that some of the stories worked for me far more than others. It is a strange, experimental, feminist collection that often crosses into fantasy, dystopia and/or magical realism. Some of the stories stepped out of the land of weird into, I feel, the land of nonsensical and absurdist. I liked these stories less than the others.

Perhaps it is somewhat plebeian of me to say so, but I preferred the stories with actual, you know, stories and a structural narrative. My favourites were the much-lauded "The Husband Stitch", "Eight Bites", and "Difficult At Parties".

"The Husband Stitch" is a retelling of "The Green Ribbon" with emphasis on the demands men and society place on women, and their sense of entitlement toward women's bodies. I especially liked how the author played around with form, including stage directions for the reader who is “reading this story out loud”.

"Eight Bites" is about a woman's relationship with food and her fat self as she considers and then gets bariatric surgery. Machado's evocative writing really worked when delving into a food/body obsession.

"Difficult At Parties" - about a woman trying to deal with the aftermath of sexual assault by watching porn - is another narrative that got right under my skin.

I also enjoyed "The Resident", in which an artist's retreat in the mountains leads to a writer slowly coming undone. It contained a darkly comical line that is one of my favourite quotes in the collection:
“Do you ever worry,” she asked me, “that you’re the madwoman in the attic?”

"Mothers", on the other hand, was a bit too abstract for me. I'd be lying if I claimed to really understand what happened. Though my least favourites were "Inventory" and "Especially Heinous". The former lists the narrator's sexual experiences throughout her life in snippets, as a vague post-apocalyptic scenario plays out in the background.

"Especially Heinous" should have been called "Especially Tedious". It rewrites the episode plot summaries for twelve seasons of Law & Order: SVU in snippets that gave me flashbacks to Lincoln in the Bardo. It's just page after page of disconnected plot summaries that didn't come together and do anything. I wanted it to end.

However, just in general - and this can hardly be considered Machado's fault - I am growing a little tired of these feminist tales that hold such a grim definition of womanhood and femininity. Where we are painted as humans owned in parts by various men and corporations, where sex is cold and passionless, where we are seen to be masturbating furiously whenever our vaginas aren’t bleeding, which seems to be 80% of the time with all the hymens, birthing and, of course, menstruation. Maybe this is to make women seem harder, more brutal, less maternal and nurturing and cuddly and weak… but it’s a bleak alternative.

This book, in particular, is heavy on the sex. I have no problem with sex and sexuality, but it's extremely detached and unemotional. It's an orgasm with a straight face. It's this quote from "Real Women Have Bodies" when the narrator's girlfriend is dying/fading:
“We have never fucked with such urgency as we do in these weeks, but she is fading more and feeling less. She comes infrequently.”

It is sometimes very strange how sex and coming are the most important things in scenes where it seems like far more important things are happening. It made it especially difficult to read through "Inventory", which is little more than a repetitive listing of unsexy sex throughout a woman's life.

My personal thoughts about the direction of feminist lit aside, I thought Her Body and Other Parties was pretty mixed overall. I would recommend Gay's Difficult Women, 404 Ink's Nasty Women or Enriquez's Things We Lost in the Fire before this book. Though some stories are definitely worth checking out.

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Profile Image for Roxane.
Author 120 books159k followers
April 9, 2017
The stories in Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties vibrate with originality, queerness, sensuality and the strange. Her voracious imagination and extraordinary voice beautifully bind these stories about fading women and the end of the world and men who want more when they’ve been given everything and bodies, so many human bodies taking up space and straining the seams of skin in impossible, imperfect, unforgettable ways.
Profile Image for Elena May.
Author 14 books698 followers
February 9, 2020
A creepy, beautiful, disturbing tale that will haunt me for a long, long time! A blend of horror stories and urban legends, "The Husband Stitch" explores the implications of a husband trying to control every part of his wife's life and not letting her keep anything private.
– A wife, he says, should have no secrets from her husband.
– I don’t have any secrets, I tell him.
– The ribbon.
– The ribbon is not a secret, it’s just mine.

The story touches on the loss of self in a relationship, and how it is often expected and demanded. The protagonist's own tale blends together with so many horror stories she has heard before – about wives, mothers, daughters, brides – each tale with the same message at its core.
Profile Image for emma.
1,866 reviews54.3k followers
February 4, 2021
my becoming-a-genius project, part 2! (and also one of my favorite books of 2020 - see the full list: https://emmareadstoomuch.wordpress.co...)

in case you missed the first one, here's the description:
i have decided to become a genius.

to accomplish this, i'm going to work my way through the collected stories of various authors, reading + reviewing 1 story every day until i get bored / lose every single follower / am struck down by a vengeful deity.

and yes, i chose this one due in no small part to miss phoebe bridgers.


this is truly one of the raddest pieces of writing i have ever read. i don't even know what to say. lovely writing, gorgeous allusions, wonderful style, brilliant structure, fantastic ending, genius title. a pitch-perfect retelling. i can't even deal.
rating: 5

a story about sexual encounters during a pandemic quarantine is hitting a bit too close to home for me right now.
rating: 3.75

you know that feeling when you start a short story and you're working at full attention to figure out where you are and who you're with and what's going on because you'll only have a few pages to both know and appreciate it?
that feeling stuck around until the very last with this one. in a good way.
rating: 4.5

hey so Carmen Maria Machado is f*cking amazing.
this is brilliant.
rating: 5

i keep waiting for a dud of a story and it just...won't come. genius end to end.
rating: 4.5

okay ouch, carmen!!!!! this is starting to hurt!!!!
rating: 4.5

so maybe this one actually scared me!!! what about it????
rating: 4.5

not my favorite. actually probably my least favorite.
rating: 3.5

this is a brilliant work by a brilliant author, and it's greater than the sum of its parts. i didn't miss a single day (despite having work and holidays and cross-country flights in that time), and not only that, but i looked forward to my time with this every day.

an easy 5 stars.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
May 2, 2019
A unique, experimental book with lovely writing and provocative content. Each story in this collection forces you to think about its themes and come up with your own interpretation for its message. I had to stop after finishing every story and look it up online to read other people's reviews and interpretations. I appreciated how every story explored the different and violent ways that women's bodies are treated, whether that comes from society or themselves. I also appreciated how the author featured lesbian relationships without making them the point of the story - instead they fit into the settings naturally. Like every short story collection, the quality of the work is uneven, especially in terms of how abstract the messages are. Some stories are too vague and confusing for my tastes (like Especially Heinous and Mothers), while others are too obvious in a way that doesn't match the rest of the work (like Eight Bites). I think the strongest stories are the ones that are right in the middle (like The Husband Stitch and Difficult at Parties) - where it leaves the story up to interpretation but gives you enough to work with. My main gripe is that while the concepts of each story are interesting, they remain only a concept and don't feel like a finished work - like the beginning of a thesis, but not a concluding thought. That's probably on purpose, but I think the book would have been much stronger if there were more cohesion. I would be interested to read a full novel by Carmen Machado to see how she would pull off a traditional narrative.
Profile Image for Melanie.
1,172 reviews98.8k followers
November 29, 2017
You can read this for free: Here from Granta!

Oh my God. This was the best short story I have ever read in my entire life. I'm writing this review in tears, because it was so immensely powerful. My hands are shaking, because this story is so real and so relevant. My stomach is in knots, because I'm not sure any combination of words I will create will do this story justice. This story is very feminist and very sexually explicit, but so damn important. It's about the life of a woman, who gives everything to men and never is allowed to keep anything for herself. It's about life's expectations on women, and how society shapes the choices we do and do not have. It's about how, no matter what, giving everything will never be good enough as a woman. It's about enjoying and exploring your sexuality, yet trying to cope with the shame. It's about never fully being able to become the person you are, but becoming the person your husband and/or family require you to be. It's about having children, who will just repeat the same vicious and unfair cycle. I wish I could put this story in everyone's hands.

I read this in The New Voices of Fantasy & Her Body and Other Parties!

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Merged review:

This collection of short stories heavily emphasizes the violence that we put on women’s bodies. Whether it be sexual violence, physical violence, violence put on us by society, or violence we put on ourselves. This entire collection is absolutely haunting in the best way possible. I won’t forget this collection, ever. And these are all so queer, and so feminist, and invoked so many emotions from me. Carmen Maria Machado is beyond words talented, and I feel so very blessed to even have been able to read this.

I'm going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!

This is my second time reading this, and it is just as powerful and hard hitting as it was the first time around. You can read this for free from Granta!, and I implore each and every one of you who is reading this review to do yourself a favor and read this short story.

This story is very feminist and very sexually explicit, but so damn important. It's about the life of a woman, who gives everything to men and never is allowed to keep anything for herself. It's about life's expectations on women, and how society shapes the choices we do and do not have. It's about how, no matter what, giving everything will never be good enough as a woman. It's about enjoying and exploring your sexuality, yet trying to cope with the shame. It's about never fully being able to become the person you are, but becoming the person your husband and/or family require you to be. It's about having children, who will just repeat the same vicious and unfair cycle. This is my favorite short story of all time and it deserves all the stars that Goodreads and every other book rating site has to offer.

This is essentially an inventory list of all the sexual encounters this particular woman has had during her thirty years while her world escalates into chaos. I loved looking at this sexual exploration, journey, and acceptance. And it evoked such raw emotion from me. I just didn’t think it was as hard hitting as some of the others in the collection.

Also, if you enjoyed this short story, please check out The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison! I honestly can’t recommend it enough, and both stories have a similar theme, feeling, and hauntingness to them.

This is a very metaphorical story that starts out with a woman being given a baby by her female lover that they created unbeknownst to the narrator. And I use the word narrator very loosely, because this story is very unreliable. You will constantly be unsure of what is real and what is not, but you slowly get to see a story unfold. I also wholeheartedly believe that this story is very open for interpretation, and what I got from it could be, and probably is, something very different from what you were able to take from it. And that in and of itself is beyond words beautiful.

This is a retelling of each season and episode of Law & Order: SVU that dips into the realm of the paranormal, but because I have never seen that show (I know, I know) I don’t think I got that much enjoyment out of this one. I still thought it was so very smartly written, and it has that haunting feeling that I know associate with Carmen Maria Machado, but I just wasn’t as in love with this as I feel others will be.

This story felt like a punch to the gut over and over and over. Words can be so powerful, and Carmen Maria Machado has perfected the craft of writing, I swear. Women in this world fade slowly and eventually become invisible. We get to see a dress shop, that puts youth and beautiful before all else, and a few of the workers are grasping to those values. Growing older, and feeling less valuable because of it, is a concept that many people in this world can’t deal with, without having to turn invisible. And I’m not going to lie to you and say that when I read that one of the characters of this book was twenty-nine that I didn’t try to suppress that visceral feeling that I don’t even have words for, but I wish so badly that I didn’t feel.

First and foremost, this short story would be so very trigging for anyone who has battled any form of eating disorder before, so please use caution before reading this one. Food and body obsession is so very real, and people will go their entire lives never knowing peace with themselves because of it. This is a story about a woman who has struggled her entire life and has finally decided to get bariatric surgery. This story also heavily talks about how we pass these terrible feelings and values down to our daughters and other generations, over and over.

Like most of the stories in this collection, this story felt really personal to read. Like, autobiographical personal. This is about a woman who goes up to the mountains, where she also spent some of her youth as a Girl Scout, to work on her novel among other artists. We slowly get to see the writer slowly comes undone by her past and her present, but also embraces and comes to terms with who she is and how she is. It’s a beautiful mixture that I think most humans will really resonate with.

This was probably the most raw feeling story for me, and it really left me feeling empty. This is about a woman dealing, coping, and trying to heal with the aftermath of a sexual assault. Between others trying to help her, to hoping her assailant is found, and trying to find some sort of peace within herself, she is using pornography as a healing mechanism. Again, this is going to really be hard for a lot of people to read, but it’s also going to hit home for so many readers that need stories like this.

I really loved this collection, and I gave Her Body and Other Parties 4 stars overall, because out of a possible 40 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 8 stories) this collection accumulated 31 stars (77%). Please pick this up, this is such an important book for everyone to read, and I can’t recommend it enough.

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Buddy read with Lilly, Elise, & Destiny! ❤
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,509 reviews29.5k followers
October 13, 2017
I'd rate this 4.5 stars.

If you think of works of fiction like works of art, Carmen Maria Machado's debut story collection, Her Body and Other Parties , is an abstract painting. It's undoubtedly gorgeous and attention-getting, there's no one right way to interpret the things you see (or read), everyone will see something different in it, and each time you look, you'll catch something you didn't see the first time. You may also find yourself wondering, "What did that mean?"

Seven of the eight stories in this collection are a mesmerizing combination of atmosphere, sexuality, emotion, and gorgeous, gorgeous storytelling. There is also a strange undercurrent of creepiness running through many of the stories. I'll admit I was a little bit nervous while reading, and I kept waiting for something horrible, for a bogeyman to reveal itself, or some shocking event to occur. That tension is almost addictive, because you want to keep on reading, wondering just what Machado has up her sleeve.

The stories that stood out the most for me were "Inventory," in which a woman recounts her sexual exploits as the world is slowly being consumed by an unexplained plague; "Real Women Have Bodies," where a young woman working at a prom dress shop makes a shocking discovery about what makes the store's gowns so unique; "Eight Bites," about a woman visited by an unwanted houseguest after weight loss surgery; the immensely creepy "The Resident," in which a writer at an artist's colony has trouble with the lines blurring between past and present, fact and fiction; and the sexy, mysterious "The Husband Stitch," where a woman's husband has been begging her for years to remove the green ribbon from around her neck, but she never has.

The one story, which is more of a novella, that absolutely didn't work for me, was "Especially Heinous," a spoof of sorts of Law and Order: SVU , which provided brief synopses of 272 episodes of the show, adding supernatural elements, ramping up the show's sexual tension and emotional instability, and throwing in some mundane twists as well. I just didn't get it, and it dragged on far too long for me, but I've seen other reviews refer to this as the best in the collection, so what do I know?

Her Body and Other Parties is a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction, and it is truly the debut of a dazzling, fearless new voice in the world of short stories. While I wish I could talk to someone about what they think happened in some of the stories, I honestly can't stop thinking about the worlds Machado created, and how masterfully she reeled me into them.

This isn't a collection for those who like their stories to be more straightforward, or those uncomfortable with sex scenes both implied and explicit, but if you're in the mood for some genre-defying fiction, pick up this collection. You'll get to witness the start of what is sure to be an incredible career.

See all of my reviews at http://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blo....
Profile Image for Alok Vaid-Menon.
Author 10 books19.8k followers
January 8, 2020
Queer fiction is vital. Heteronormativity operates by requiring queer people to be immediately explicit – to detail our bodies, lives, + loves such that we can be immediately intelligible to straight society. The coming out narrative is not just a heteronormative fantasy, it is a narrative crisis. Queer writers are pigeon-holed into self-narration because the expectation is that our stories should always be didactic, as if they exist to demystify our sexuality/gender which is already always suspect. Queer writers should be able to write any genre – especially fiction. What is more abstract an experience than navigating a world that continually disappears you?

Machado’s book was brilliant. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’m haunted by it. I see it there on my shelf, but I feel it here in my gut. It was terrifying, thrilling, overwhelming. I have learned that lurking beneath every perfunctory gesture is something more insidious: the ends of sentences we don’t say, the punctuation we don’t yet have. The scream, it seems, will always surpass the confines of an explanation mark. Like a reverse lens crafter, she takes what is familiar + twists it such that in its distortion we have more clarity. This is the prescription we need. This collection is a meditation on what it means to have a body. The labor, the terror, the rapture of that. Having a gendered body is about being succumbed to every day horror that just gets so accultured that we cease to see it as horrific, just honorific. Talking about mental health always feels impossible like how can I describe this solar system of pain that orbits within me when you require something as meager as proof? Sometimes when we don’t have the words, we have to find monsters.

Machado entraps us, each ending so acute it’s like a bite of cold air in the one part of your neck left uncovered outside. “[We] sleep hours tangled up together like coat hangers” each metaphor so well-crafted we know Machado is watching the world with the diligence + conviction so many of us will spend lifetimes trying to cultivate. Watch Machado watch us; weep; find the haunted house hidden at the back of your heart.
Profile Image for Taylor Reid.
Author 22 books162k followers
December 10, 2020
I am truly blown away by the talent of Carmen Maria Machado. I find myself floored by her metaphors, deeply pulled in by her prose. I feel in awe of her, really. If you're looking for a good short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties is really special. It's weird and wild, and some of the stories take some time to sort out. But they are great. One of my favorites is available to read on Granta.com.

And if you read it—and you like it—but you can’t tell why you liked it, this article helped me fully understand how I was feeling.
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
4,010 reviews596 followers
February 18, 2018
It’s 3am...
I really need to fall back to sleep ...
but I couldn’t stop reading these stories so before I drift off..
I’ll just say a few things...

I had read two of the stories yesterday and couldn’t stop talking to Paul about them on our hike yesterday. I was trying to figure them out. They are easy to read - but requires our interpretation.
I just now finished the rest... some were even harder to wrap my head around. These are literary - kinda brilliant- short stories-which a classroom discussion could enhance.

Lots of SEX..so let’s just get that out there ....
However sex in these stories is a broad word.

The writing is beautiful- gorgeous- addictive- intense - elegant - powerful - disturbing- erotic - heartbreaking- horrific -

Women are vulnerable- their souls are split open - there is a sense of doom -

I still don’t understand all of these stories and I’m not sure I’m suppose to... and a few I liked more than others

Paul and I discussed the symbolism of a green ribbon -
We talked about a story ‘Inventory’ .... sex partners....
The last story - ( I knew it was from rape) - but it’s not graphic..... left me hurting,

At the same time there is life energy in these stories through women’s bodies....beautiful women’s bodies...

A thought provoking unique collection of stories by one hell of a gifted artistic writer ....
I’m left breathless!!!!
Profile Image for Joe Valdez.
498 reviews851 followers
December 30, 2017
Her Body and Other Parties is the debut book by Carmen Maria Machado, whose movie reviews I was familiar with in the Los Angeles Times. Published in 2017, I bit on this short story collection with the publisher's promise of fiction that "borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism." I found it to be rough in terms of quality control, a talented beginner trying way too hard. The first and second of eight pieces are terrific but everything that follows alternates wildly between undeveloped workshop draft and smart ass social media post. Obscurity overwhelms clarity.

"The Husband Stitch" is the tale of a woman who wears a green ribbon around her neck that she never removes. At seventeen, she meets the man she'll marry, and manages to keep her ribbon and its secrets secure until their son goes off to college. The Writing (with a capital W, ugh) is style heavy--which should have been a red flag for me--but Machado did keep me unsettled throughout by grounding her story in the patterns of an old wives tale or urban legend. The piece has momentum and does lead the reader somewhere. For those like me who've never read Machado's fiction, this piece easily made me want to read more beguiling tales of women on the edge of reason.

"Inventory" is one woman's diary of her sexual partners. The seventh entry in her little black book indicates that all may not be right with the world as an epidemic spreads from Northern California, impacting each of her subsequent entries. This is bar none the best piece. After the style choice of diary format gets familiar, there's an actual story here. Machado's writing is fraught with tension and put me on edge. I wanted to know more about the world that was developing and how her narrator would survive it. This piece had me sold that I had a great debut book on my hands.

"Mothers" is about a woman whose bad romance (with a woman named Bad) culminates in her lover delivering a baby. It was not clear to me what the fuck was going on in this story. This is one of those pieces you discuss at book club, with everyone taking a turn describing what they think they read and together, you figure out what happened. Was there really a baby? Was the narrator really going crazy? What really happened in the house? Really? This sort of Writing is not for me and may not be for anyone who likes story and characters. Machado is also doing things in Capital Letters at this point. She seems to be trying too hard.

"Especially Heinous (272 Views of Law & Order SVU)" are little joke synopses of fake episodes of the long-running detective show. Apparently, Machado is a big time SVU fan and might have been compelled to write what she knows, but this is one most obnoxious things I've ever read in a book. A blog post or series of Tweets this dopey wouldn't have bothered me because social media and snark go hand in hand. As a fiction reader, though, I hate jokes. After three pages, I gave up and skipped to the next story, hoping that Machado might regain some quality control over the book. Not every pitch is going to be a strike ...

"Real Women Have Bodies" is about a college grad working at a Forever 21 type store in a mall. She's seduced by a girl who supplies the retailer with women's garments and in a twist that gets the book back on track, women around the world are becoming non-corporeal, losing their mass. This piece comes closest to having story and characters and I did find myself becoming affected by the romance. The dark fantasy conceit isn't given priority and Machado is still too vague to be completely satisfying, but this was a decent piece.

"Eight Bites" is about a woman who has a gastric-bypass type medical procedure and is sort of visited by the entity she shed. This conceit cannot hold the story built on top of it and on that basis, I checked out of it.

"The Resident" is about a woman who drives into the mountains to take part in a funded fellowship for writers and artists so she can finish her novel. The residency also happens to be on the same lake she attended Girls Scouts camp at. Of course, the woman will experience strange things. Of course, the reader will wonder if what she's experiencing is real or has some Meaning. Of course, I hated this.

"Difficult At Parties" is about a woman who experiencing some bad trauma coming home and trying to adjust. Her relationship with a man is as unclear as what happened to her or what she's experiencing.

Her Body and Other Parties may be best recommended for those who enjoy writing, with lots of meaningful themes intentionally woven into them. I can't think of anything worse to spend my time reading. Maybe an alt-right manifesto. Some have described the book as "feminist," but I don't know what that means in terms of fiction. An author either creates a compelling story and characters, or she doesn't. There isn't a single piece in this book I'd want to tell someone about and for that reason, I can't recommend it. Machado errs on the side of obscurity, and errs a lot.
Profile Image for mark monday.
1,677 reviews5,252 followers
September 21, 2019
It feels strange giving 2 stars to an author with so much undeniable talent. Even more, one whose interests align with my own interests. Machado writes stories where her stylistic skills are front and center - her prose impresses with its elegant craftsmanship, its playfulness, its willingness to tell stories in different ways, its centralization of language itself and the way an author can bend and shape how words are pieced together so that the message package becomes as important as the message itself. I love that! Machado's stories connect with a range of genres, from horror to science fiction to much else, while pushing beyond genre boundaries into a space where genre itself is but another tool in the toolbox of telling stories. I love that! Machado loves ambiguity, and I love that too. And Machado is a feminist author in her evaluation and critique of how women are compartmentalized by society (and by themselves) and in her promotion of atypical roles for her female characters, while for the most part not using a heavy hand that is telling the reader I Am Making A Point Now. I love that too.

But here's what I don't love, and thus the 2 stars: most of these stories felt half-baked to me. The ideas are there, and the writing itself is strong. But her stories often didn't work for me because it felt like they existed solely on the level of idea - and to showcase the prose skills of the author. I love challenging fiction but I also love a narrative that is telling me something in a way that makes sense and that resonates and that doesn't feel like its author had the beginning of a good idea and that's all. And that the strength of their writing ability would have to carry the story, rather than the idea behind the story itself. A lot of these stories are like pies with an excellent crust but a filling that is all whipped cream. The worst of these is "Especially Heinous" which has an ingenious idea at its heart but becomes so bloated and self-indulgent that the idea itself is utterly lost in all of that whipped cream. It started out as an energizing experience and ended up being an enervating one.

All that said, there were a couple stories that really landed for me. "The Husband Stitch" has all of the delicious prose, flirtation with horror, weird ambiguity, and subtle feminism that I could want in a story. I love how I am unable to describe this disturbing tale in one easy phrase, so I won't even try. "Inventory" mashes up contagion and post-apocalyptic narratives into a slowly deepening story about loss and love and connection - a tale that increases in power with each of its journal entries. Unfortunately these were the first stories in the collection; expectations of further excellence were created but only frustration and disappointment followed. Alas!
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews964 followers
April 20, 2020
A debut collection of eight surreal stories, Her Body and Other Parties examines the emotional toll of gendered violence upon female interiority. The best of the stories give voice to the frustrations and longings of marginalized women as they navigate a society obsessed with controlling their bodies; the worst prize experiments in form over compelling storytelling, and the tales come across as gimmicky. All the pieces take place against terrifying backdrops—a global plague, the apocalypse, a monstrous shopping mall—and they incorporate elements of the fabulist and fantastical, from vanishing bodies to otherworldly vistas. Recalling Roxane Gay, Machado writes sharp prose that moves at a brisk pace, and her work blurs the lines between genres. The collection’s wildly uneven, but stories like “Eight Bites” and “The Husband Stitch” signal the start of a promising career.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,093 reviews17.7k followers
May 9, 2021
Update: I do not think I was old enough to really get this when I read it (I was 16 and am now 20) so I would like to reread. For now, I will leave this as a four star, but I don't stand by this opinion, frankly.

As a bonus Carmen Marie Machado story worth a read: The Lost Performance of the High Priestess of the Temple of Horror
‘I only know how to scream,’ she said. Marcel placed his hand on her thigh. ‘And that’s all anyone wants from me.’


“I choose this life,” the prostitute says to the social worker. “I do. Please put your energy into helping girls who aren’t here by choice.” She is so right. She is murdered anyway.

Strange, visceral.

First of all, I absolutely adore Machado's writing. It's not a controversial take to call her one of the most talented writers in the game right now, and deserving of all the awards. Her writing has a visceral, imagistic quality - it breaks through your skin, struggles to come out of your mouth. I also really appreciated how unapologetically queer this collection is, and would definitely recommend it in my stack of great queer fiction.

But these stories... well, you’re not going to enjoy them unless you get them, at least partially. I feel like someone on twitter is going to declare everyone who didn’t get this a typical straight feminist or whatever, so to clarify: the women kissing are not the confusing part of this collection. Either because of my too-high expectations via The Husband Stitch, a story I'd read earlier, or because I was just plain young - I was sixteen when I read this collection - I didn't find myself quite understanding the metaphorical point of every story. Generally, the theme is clear; the conclusion is not.

I would recommend this to those who loved the metaphorical stories in Roxane Gay’s Difficult Women. (I was tragically not one of those people.)

The Husband Stitch - ★★★★★
I read this twice earlier due to Melanie's awesome recommendation. This is a story about being consumed, losing your own agency, and how much you can give before you break. One thing is clear, though; it's worth the read. There were a few metaphors here I only understood on the second and third reads due to sheer exhaustion, which is really upsetting - I feel like this would be my fave story ever otherwise. You can read this story here.

Inventory - ★★★★☆
A story of a woman’s sex life as a plague destroys her world. Honestly, I don't even know what this was. Okay, I do; it’s an exploration of how sex alone can reflect an environment. There's this sort of raw quality to it, but I can't say it ever really got under my skin, and the character work could’ve been far stronger.

Mothers - ★★★★☆
No summary. Uhhh... somebody please explain what the hell this story's ending means? Because I honest to god do not understand. I think I kind of loved it, though. Maybe worth a reread.

Especially Heinous - ★★★☆☆
This is a slightly-too-long rundown of a series of Law and Order: SVU episodes. Using the real titles, Machado makes up an intriguing plot full of supernatural elements and twists. The ending of this worked perfectly for me, but the story itself was too long; twelve seasons is a lot of episodes and apparently, a lot of repetition. I got the point about dead prostitutes 30 pages in and at points it just kept going. Have to admit, though, that several of the episode descriptions will stay with me.

Real Women Have Bodies - ★★★★☆
This story is one of women who become translucent over time. I really appreciated it; the detail is visceral and the emotion raw. It is far more metaphorical than I tend to prefer, though.

Eight Bites - ★★★★☆
An exploration of disordered eating and fatphobia in society especially among women! and yet I also just didn’t fucking understand 75% of this, so?

The Resident - ★★★☆☆
This one is about confronting your past and all it comes with. The thematic conclusions are good, but unfortunately, I felt it was a bit overly long, and repeated concepts we've already come to.

Difficult at Parties - ★★☆☆☆
I 👏 didn’t 👏 understand 👏 this 👏 at 👏 all 👏 what 👏 does 👏 it 👏 mean 👏

ALL IN ALL: Good, but too metaphorical for my style and taste. I read one a night with Melanieand Destiny.

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Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,114 followers
October 10, 2017
I ordered this for my library but grew impatient and listened to it on Hoopla instead. It is one of the finalists for the 2017 National Book Award (USA.)

This is a book of short stories, all centering around the female body, as evidenced by the title. This would not be a book for anyone who shocks easily, as there is sex, a lot of sex, some of it queer sex, and some of it deals with the aftermath of sexual assault. Some of the themes are disturbing, and the insertion at times of supernatural or fantastical elements make many of the stories feel even more dangerous than real life, or maybe it's that they highlight the danger of real life. The writing is powerful and I would not be surprised to see this win the award, although I'm still slightly more on board with Sing, Unburied, Sing.

Story by story:

The Husband Stitch - This is a retelling of The Girl with the Ribbon Around her Neck, but somehow the husband is more domineering, and the lengthening of the story brings you more into her point of view.

Inventory - A list of sexual encounters inside the context of a world falling apart due to a virus. This might be my favorite!

Mothers - A disturbing story where I couldn't tell what was real and what was not. A baby delivered by her lesbian partner, told "this is your baby," But then she is running through the park after stranger babies...

Especially Heinous - I could not understand what was going on here, and had to stop and look up some info about the book. The author has taken every episode of SVU, the show that focuses on sex crimes, usually against women, and builds an alternative story where women have bell eyes and something supernatural is going on and I just didn't really get it at all. I'm sure if I had any familiarity at all with SVU the characters at least would make sense to me, but this was rough. And since it was in audio, I couldn't tell if this was a series of very short stories (flash stories) or what I was encountering, because the author keeps the title of each episode and then has a paragraph or a sentence after each. I wish it had an intro or something, at least to navigate the audio verison.

Real Women Have Bodies - If women really grew invisible....

Eight Bites - Well I'm not quite sure, but I think this is about weight loss surgery and the sacrifice of thin and what it does to our daughters? It's rather frightening.

The Resident - This one examines whether female writers are allowed to write about themselves the same way male writers are, what makes something art, how much autonomy do you have as a creative person?

Difficult at Parties - A woman has gone through severe trauma and starts hearing the thoughts of actors on film.. and in the background, a spouse trying desperately to help.
Profile Image for Emily B.
442 reviews441 followers
August 1, 2022
I enjoyed the majority of these stories and found them intriguing, however I did not like or get the story ‘especially heinous’. As a result it became a chore to read.

I found most of the other stories in the collection interesting and original. Particularly ‘real women have bodies’ where women start fading and becoming invisible at random.
Profile Image for Beverly.
833 reviews313 followers
June 30, 2019
A quote from the book that I loved, "god should have made girls lethal when he made monsters of men.--Elizabeth Hewer, was placed before the stories and acts as a theme of sorts.

The first story is a powerful blow to the gut and is a must read, entitled, "The Husband Stitch". I enjoyed "Inventory", and "Eight Bites" very much too. The other stories were not quite as enthralling for me, but they are menacing and disquieting. This writer is gifted and has a very distinct voice. The story, "Especially Heinous" was the only humorous one, but I got kind of weary of it and it was the only story I could not finish.
Profile Image for Blair.
1,793 reviews4,426 followers
October 26, 2017
In her debut collection of short stories, Carmen Maria Machado mingles fabulism, body horror, erotica and feminist commentary. The thrust of Her Body and Other Parties is perhaps best encapsulated by the second story in the book, 'Inventory'. It starts with the narrator cataloguing everyone she's slept with, taking on that now-near-compulsory clinical tone, that Muumuu House type of thing of talking endlessly about sex but doing so in an affectless style that doesn't communicate any passion or joy or pleasure. It suddenly becomes more interesting when a hidden narrative emerges: as the narrator progresses through her later conquests, she talks of a pervasive virus, family members lost, a quarantine zone, evacuations and refugees. It's an unexpected approach to the dystopian theme and a pleasing subversion of first impressions, yet the story as a whole remains unsatisfying.

Then there's the much-discussed and multi-award-nominated 'The Husband Stitch', a modern fable which updates the campfire tale 'The Green Ribbon'. Like the original, it is a horror story with a gruesome twist, but the true horrors here are ordinary ones: the husband's insistence that the wife have nothing of her own; the titular stitch itself. In striving for a fairytale flavour, Machado uses a mannered voice that renders her narrator smug and oddly prudish even as she recounts exhausting quantities of sex (a recurring motif, as you may already have guessed). I did enjoy her wry stage directions: 'If you are reading this story out loud, move aside the curtain to illustrate this final point to your listeners. It'll be raining, I promise.'

Among the weaker stories is 'Especially Heinous', which reimagines plot summaries of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit episodes through a surrealist lens, playing on the ubiquity of violence against women in such shows. This starts out as a cute absurdist gimmick, but it's about five times longer than it needs to be. Some images (the ghosts with bells for eyes; the grotesque secret of the dresses in 'Real Women Have Bodies') just don't make enough sense to work, much less shock. There's always an emptiness, something missing. (And there are so many instances of 'inside of' in these stories – inside of me, inside of her, inside of him, I swear it feels like every other paragraph in some stories. I wish an editor had taken their scalpel to those 'of's.)

My favourite was 'The Resident'. While the subject matter is slightly more staid than some of the others – presumably semi-autobiographical in its portrait of a writer unravelling during a retreat – it's a relief that it isn't told at a cold, impersonal remove. It actually has heart and a personality, unlike so many of the others, and contains one of the few truly rousing scenes in the book, when the narrator lashes out at a patronising acquaintance and defends her right to write about 'crazy' heroines and madwomen in attics. This could be read as a manifesto for the collection as a whole (but isn't enough to save it). Also strong is 'Eight Bites', in which the weight the protagonist loses through bariatric surgery takes on a life of its own.

It's difficult to articulate without sounding like an idiot who's missed the point entirely, but there's something I find so depressing about the kind of writing that's ostensibly feminist but seems to focus incessantly on the negatives of being a woman. In fiction such as this, the approach is often paired with candid-yet-detached writing about sex that I also find offputting (not to mention extremely unsexy). The stories are well-crafted and (when they don't feel workshopped to death) spark with strong ideas and entertaining metafictional touches, but Her Body and Other Parties didn't work for me the way I hoped it would.

If you enjoyed this I'd recommend the following (all short story collections):
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enríquez
The Doll's Alphabet by Camilla Grudova
Intimations by Alexandra Kleeman
Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh
The Babysitter at Rest by Jen George

I received an advance review copy of Her Body and Other Parties from the publisher through NetGalley.

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Profile Image for destiny ♡ howling libraries.
1,740 reviews5,281 followers
February 16, 2023
I have heard all of the stories about girls like me, and I am unafraid to make more of them.

This anthology isn't so much a collection of stories as it is a collection of experiences. Carmen Maria Machado writes beautifully; her voice is so incredibly unique, and no matter the content of the tale, she transports you right into the scene - for better or for worse. I'll do my best to give you my thoughts on each story, but at the end of the day, this is the sort of collection that I highly recommend you simply pick up for yourself.

The Husband Stitch ★★★★★ ←
The anthology opens with a peculiar retelling of a classic horror legend: the woman with the ribbon around her throat, if you're familiar. The narrator carries us through her life: through meeting her significant other, wedding him, giving birth, the woes and beauties of motherhood, and more.

She explores the paradox of being a woman who is proud of embracing her sexuality, while still, at times, noting the shame that society places upon her for it. She portrays the struggle of motherhood, and trying to do one's best despite all of the many obstacles that may cross a mother's path. Most of all, she explores feminism, and the fact that a woman, no matter how much she loves her partner or her child(ren), remains her own property at the end of the day. When a woman allows another human being to claim "ownership" of her, she loses herself.

"Why do you want to hide it from me?"
"I'm not hiding it. It just isn't yours."

Inventory ★★★★☆ ←
While the first story is metaphorical, the second story is literally an "inventory", or a history, of the narrator's sexual partners and relationships. This entry to the collection is incredibly explicit, but woven into the stories, we learn of a world coming to a halt, and an apocalyptic reality setting into place thanks to an unstoppable disease. Machado builds up a lovely but inescapable sense of impending dread.

Mothers ★★★☆☆ ←
The third entry begins with our narrator being handed a baby created by herself and her former female lover, and frankly, beyond this point, the rest of the story is a combination of beautiful, poetic narrative, and absolute chaos in the form of one of the most genuinely unreliable narrators I've ever read. If you enjoy unreliable narration and being left to piece things together for yourself, this will be right up your alley, but it was just a little too blurry and grey of an ending for my taste. One thing I will give Machado the utmost credit for in this story, though, is the incredible way she writes an abusive relationship. There were so many lines that were brutally familiar, but so cathartic, because they felt so raw and genuinely.

There was no way for me to tell her that we are so close, we are so close, please don't do this now, we are so fucking close.

Especially Heinous ★★☆☆☆ ←
This was my least favorite entry in the collection, though that doesn't mean it was bad. This one details an alternate universe of Law & Order: SVU in which there are ghosts of dead prostitutes with bells for eyes, doppelgangers dead-set on ruining lives, affairs, lost memories, and a character falling somewhere between mentally unwell and possessed. It follows several "seasons", with each "episode"'s synopsis ranging from a sentence to a paragraph. It was actually an incredibly unique idea, and I loved the metaphors being presented, but it overstayed its welcome and I found myself drudging through the last several pages.

Real Women Have Bodies ★★★★☆ ←
Out of all of the stories, this was the toughest for me to rate, because I felt like it could be interpreted so many different ways, and I found myself second-guessing what it meant to me. Our narrator, a dress shop employee, lives in a world where women keep disappearing. They don't vanish into thin air; instead, they simply wake up one day to find their bodies fading, until they become translucent, and then are gone for good. At first, I believed it to be a commentary on society's expectations of women in general, but at one point, the story explains that women are fading younger and younger, and suddenly, I was reading a story about a world in which women lose their value as they lose their youth, and their worth is "lost" earlier with each passing generation. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Soon, I'll be nothing more, too. None of us will make it to the end.

Eight Bites ★★★★★ ←
As someone who has struggled with disordered eating, I have vowed to always be honest in my reviews, but to be especially candid when it comes to ED rep, because it so easily goes awry. Let me preface this first, though, by saying that I have never seen a representation of an eating disorder that is as raw, and authentic, and flawless as what I read in this short story. I felt like I was gasping for air at times. The story follows a woman who, after years of struggling with her weight, decides to have gastric surgery to assist her weight loss. She comes from a line of women who are "too large", and even reminisces on her mother's disordered habits from her youth, though she doesn't seem to grasp how her self-loathing has alienated her own overweight daughter, too. What follows her surgery is brutal, and familiar, and heartbreaking, and so cathartic.

"You are unwanted," I say.

The Resident ★★★★☆ ←
This was another tough one to rate, because it felt so incredibly personal; I literally, at multiple times, thought, "Am I reading an autobiography?" It tells the story of a writer who goes to a writer's retreat in an area where she once had a childhood "incident" with her Girl Scouts group, but we are left guessing as to what the incident was for most of the tale. In a nutshell, it's a story of learning to accept who you are and how you feel about yourself, as well as the world around you.

"Do you ever listen to yourself? This is crazy, that is crazy, everything is crazy to you. By whose measure?"

Difficult At Parties ★★★★☆ ←
Machado rounds out the ending of the book with a story about a woman who has suffered sexual assault and is trying to find her place in the world again with her new traumas. She wades through the police search for her attacker, as well as desperate attempts to become intimate with her lover once more, and ends up seeking comfort in pornographic films. This is a bizarre, tough read, but it's important, and like every other story in this collection, it painted a scene that served as a reminder of just how brutal life can be for women in this world.

final thoughts & rating ★★★★☆ ←
If I average everything up, I only actually gave this collection 3.88/5 stars, but overall, it felt like a 4- or even 4.5-star read. It is unapologetically feminist, queer, candid, and authentic. It is brutal at times, cathartic at others, and most of all, it is important. Be aware that it comes with nearly every trigger warning I can think of, but do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
August 27, 2017
4.5 stars, because this Nebula-nominated novelette is just so well-wrought and hard-hitting, even though I'm not on board with its worldview.* "The Husband Stitch" is a subtly disturbing, sexually explicit and well-written take on the old horror folk tale about the woman who always wears a ribbon around her neck. Machado weaves together old folk tales, urban legends and some meta aspects, where she addresses the reader directly. It's pretty brilliant, actually.

This is a strong and overtly feminist tale that takes a very dim view of men generally: men are thoughtlessly manipulative and dismissive of women's feelings. Even a strong-willed woman, like our narrator, can get worn down by it over time. The stronger your feminist leanings, the more likely you are to appreciate this story. It's free online at Granta.com.

*Not that I'm against equality, but this story has a serious beef against the male gender generally in our society. While some men would behave in the way the men do in this story, I don't think it's fair to paint all men with the same brush.

Content note: strongly explicit sexual content. Definitely not for readers who want clean reads.
Profile Image for Kayla Dawn.
291 reviews901 followers
August 5, 2019
I don't know, I just could not get into any of the stories and it took me a hell lot of willpower to pick this book back up after I put it down lol
Profile Image for Hannah.
594 reviews1,055 followers
November 7, 2017
I was really looking forward to this book, ever since I saw a review by Roxane Gay for this; then when I read and loved one of these short stories earlier this year I was even more excited - and I was not disappointed in the least. I absolutely adored these stories and what Carmen Maria Machado has to offer. She writes just the kind of slightly unsettling and very upsetting short stories that I just adore. Her stories are twisted and mean but also beautiful beyond words. They have a core feminist message while also being stylistically awesome and never losing sight of the humanity at the core of them. The stories are highly inventive, can be read both as a social commentary and often as love stories, her characters feel real and her language is precise and wonderful.

As is usually the case I adored some stories more than others but overall this was a very strong collection and I can absolutely understand the praise it has garnered (it has been blurbed by Roxane Gay and Jeff VanderMeer among others).

I loved "The Husband Stitch" (this is the story I had read before), maybe even more so the second time around: this inventive rumination on what secrets women are allowed to keep made me mad and sad at the same time.

In "Inventory" a woman looks back on her past lovers as the world comes to an literal end around her. This story felt very different than the rest of the collection but I loved its wistful melancholy and the bleak surrounding Carmen Maria Machado evoked.

My favourite of the bunch was the novella "Especially Heinous", written as short blurbs for a TV show (think "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit" ) filled with ghosts with bells for eyes and doppelgängers that are eerily similar but very creepy. This story was unsettling and creepy but also packed an immense emotional punch.
Profile Image for Elizabeth (Plant Based Bride).
427 reviews4,828 followers
March 28, 2023
“I’m not hiding it. It just isn’t yours.” pg. 21

A deeply feminist work from a queer perspective, using a variety of genres, literary tropes and cliches to tell women’s stories. Machado reimagines fairytales and urban legends to explore the ways these stories, and society at large, trap women with expectation. Imaginative, gripping, haunting, melancholic, and visceral.

“I do not even struggle to speak; the spark of words dies so deep in my chest there is not even space to mount them on an exhale.” pg. 238

My favourite stories were:
- The Husband Stitch,
- Inventory,
- Real Women Have Bodies, and;
- The Resident

This collection has left its mark on me.

“I cannot tell if they are holding on for dear life or if they are trapped. The rustling and trembling of fabric could be weeping or laughter.” pg. 137

Trigger/Content Warnings: childbirth, death, sexual content, misogyny, sexual assault, deadly virus/epidemic, domestic abuse, murder, sexual assault of a minor, suicide, blood, Gore, incest, kidnapping, fatphobia, animal death, body horror, vomit

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You can join our book club over on Patreon... (this was our book club pick for June)
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Profile Image for Thomas.
1,519 reviews8,983 followers
December 31, 2017
3.5 stars

A scintillating, sexually-charged short story collection that centers the emotions and experiences of queer women. Carmen Maria Machado writes about women's most pressing desires and their most difficult challenges. Almost all of the stories contain some element of fantasy or science fiction, such as women whose bodies disappear or a world that comes to an end because of a terrifying disease. Through these unique, uncomfortable narratives, Machado explores the pleasure and pain of women and their bodies, as well as the violence men often enact onto women's bodies. My favorite stories included "Eight Bites," which follows a woman who gets gastric bypass surgery and examines body image and self-esteem and how others influence our relationship with food, "The Husband Stitch," which interrogates male entitlement to women's bodies, and "Real Women Have Bodies," which explores a world in which women's bodies disappear and draws parallels to how society treats women and their bodies now.

Overall, a genre-bending collection of stories that gives much-needed space to the narratives of queer women. I only detract from my rating because I struggled to connect with the characters in these stories aside from the three I named, as the fabulist or fantastical elements dominated the narrative or the narrative did not go on for long enough for me to feel invested (as often is the case with short stories). Still, I would recommend this collection to those interested in dark, sensual stories about women and their bodies.
Profile Image for Cece (ProblemsOfaBookNerd).
332 reviews7,306 followers
November 4, 2019
Oh, how I wanted to love this. I have wanted to read this story collection for a couple of years now, and the more I heard about it the more perfect for me it seemed. I'll give you quick star ratings for each of the eight stories in this collection but I think most of them can be boiled down to a couple of things.
a) Fascinating concept
b) Excellent writing
c) Losing the thread
d) Confusing or nonsensical endings

I wanted to love this. I tried to absorb the ideas, to engage with each world as it was presented to me, but this story collection felt like an exercise in surrealism for the sake of being surreal. There comes a point when surrealism buries the point that is attempting to be made and that was ultimately my problem with almost every story in the collection. I'll run through the stories really quickly.

The Husband Stitch - 4/5
Easily my favorite of the collection. It is the one that gets its meaning across best, and the use of folk tales and fairy tales was excellent. I was fascinated and horrified by this world.

Inventory - 3/5
I liked the ideas here - the concept of a looming apocalypse only being relayed through stories about a woman's sexual history. My issues with this one were more a me thing. I had the thought "I'm too ace for this" about a hundred times. I'm not usually one to balk at sexual content but it is impossible to avoid in this story and it made it just a bit more difficult for me personally to read. However, I did love the construction of the world.

Mothers - 2/5
Not much to say here besides that I just didn't get it. I was trying to assign meaning to this story, falling back on every skill I learned while getting my English degree to parse reality vs surrealism and I just didn't get it. I don't know what happened in this story. I did enjoy the hints of breaking down a past abusive relationship, but those stronger elements got buried under prose I think obscured the point.

Especially Heinous - 1.5/5
I have even less to say here. As a person who has never watched a single episode of Law & Order: SVU this dragged on endlessly. I was barely paying attention for the final 30 pages.

Real Women Have Bodies - 3/5
Beginning was amazing, ending was nonexistent. At some point it just... stopped. This for me created the second most interesting world in the collection, one I would have liked to spend more time in. It was absolutely horrifying, as every story in this collection was, but there was just this extra level of terror that I couldn't get out of my head. I wish the ending had felt more complete.

Eight Bites - 4/5
My second favorite story in the collection. This was elegantly written and precisely the right length. I think the end didn't quite do the story justice, but the ideas of body image and the frighting reality of women physically forcing themselves to take up less room in society made this really compelling.

The Resident - 3.5/5
I loved, loved the set up for this. There is something so magical to me, so full of potential, about a retreat. Writing retreats, vacation spots, camps, they all fascinate me. So setting up this world of the writing retreat, and the idea of an unreliable narrator, the mad woman in the attic, I was prepared for this to be my favorite story. Unfortunately, and I know I'm repeating myself now, the ending dissolved into nonsense. I was chasing the surreal, chasing the unreliability of the story I was being told, but it went too far too fast and I couldn't keep up. I don't know what happened at the end of this story and I couldn't help but feel cheated out of a conclusion.

Difficult at Parties - 3/5
Well written and interesting, just not for me. I think there is an inherent distance here that is intentional, this woman struggling to recover from a sexual assault through porn, and that was a story I was engaged in. I felt for her anger and for her frequent lack of feeling entirely. I just think it drifted at the end.

Those are my thoughts! I wish I had more loving things to say, but these are my experiences as I had them. When I average out all these ratings I reached an even 3/5 stars so that's the rating I gave to the collection overall.
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