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In the Dream House: A Memoir

4.68  ·  Rating details ·  2,719 ratings  ·  518 reviews
For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique ...more
Hardcover, 264 pages
Published November 5th 2019 by Graywolf Press
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Average rating 4.68  · 
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 ·  2,719 ratings  ·  518 reviews

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Jun 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
With exacting, exquisite prose, Carmen Maria Machado writes about the complexities of abuse in queer relationships in her absolutely remarkable memoir In The Dream House. She deftly chronicles the wildness of succumbing to desire, the entrancing tenderness of loving and being loved, the fragility of hope, and the unspeakable horror when the woman you love is a monster beneath and on the surface of her skin. What makes this book truly exceptional is how Machado creates an archive where, ...more
Justin Tate
Nov 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
YES YES YES!!! A 1000x better than expected, and I expected nothing short of holy scripture.

Months earlier I stumbled upon the description and knew this book would be monumental. As early reviews crept in, my anticipation grew. I had my Kindle fully charged and stayed up until midnight so I could start reading the second it released. By 2am I was 30% done. A few marathon readings later, I reached the last page with breathless finality. The result? Monumental doesn't even begin to cover it.

Oct 30, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: usa, 2019-read
In this intimate, formally experimental memoir, Machado recalls how she survived an abusive relationship, but gives her own experiences a wider context: As she illustrates by giving examples from real life, art and scientific texts, violence in lesbian relationships has rarely been acknowledged and discussed, thus rendering the victims almost invisible and making them even more vulnerable. With "In the Dream House", Machado wants to add to the archive of stories about the human experience, ...more
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020
In the Dream House is a most unmemoir-like memoir. This account of Carmen Maria Machado’s years in an abusive same-sex relationship plays with form, blending elements of literary criticism, pop culture essays, folk tales and the shadowy worlds of her short fiction.

To tell this real-life story, Machado cleaves herself in two: the first-person, present-day “I” – settled, successful, safe – addresses the second-person, past “you”. This textual interplay between two Carmens affords more closeness
Nov 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Machado writes in the afterword for this novel,

"In The Dream House is by no means meant to be a comprehensive account of contemporary research about same-sex domestic abuse or its history”.

And yet that is in a way what she has created.. More powerful because of the memoir format in which it is presented.

There are parts of this memoir where you can viscerally feel the fear that Machado feels. The slow grinding down of her spirit from the constant verbal, psychological, and physical violence that
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dream House as Sodom
Like Lot’s wife, you looked back, and like Lot’s wife, you were turned into a pillar of salt, but unlike Lot’s wife, God gave you a second chance and turned you human again, but then you looked back again and became salt and then God took pity and gave you a third, and over and again you lurched through your many reprieves and mistakes; one moment motionless and the next gangly, your soft limbs wheeling and your body staggering into the dirt, and then stiff as a tree trunk
Julie Ehlers
In the Dream House is an unusual memoir; a tale of domestic abuse in a same-sex relationship, it's loaded with references to myth, folktales, and literary genres. This sounds like heavy going, but the short chapters and simple but eloquent writing style instead make the book compelling, a page-turner. I don't think I've quite plumbed the depths of what this book is doing, but as Machado points out, stories of domestic abuse in female–female couples are underrepresented in the literature and ...more
Lucy Dacus
Nov 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There is no readying yourself for this one. Carmen is a modern legend, case closed.
Roman Clodia
Nov 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a quick read but is alive with intelligence, insight and empathy, detailing how a young woman finds herself, unexpectedly, in an abusive relationship. Machado is honest about her emotions: her vulnerability and desire for love, her retreat in the face of the gradual uncovering of the inner nature of her lover, her pretence and self-deception, her attempts to encourage her lover to get professional help, her final escape.

As well as detailing an intensely personal story, this is also a
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Nov 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This memoir about emotional and psychological domestic abuse was written in such a unique and compelling way. The author explores the myths and the cultural beliefs that abuse doesn’t happen in lesbian relationships. The memoir is told through multiple vignettes centered around the time her girlfriend lived in a particular house while enrolled in an MFA program. The unique structure bolstered the powerful and impactful writing.
Jessica Woodbury
Nov 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a memoir that plays with structure, that recognizes implicitly that this is a book people will sit down and read, and that understands the world and the record it is coming into. It is a world where we still don't really recognize that domestic abuse takes place in queer relationships, we don't recognize abuse as anything except physical harm from a man acting on a woman. Machado knows she is facing an uphill climb, especially since abuse memoirs have an inherent problem of explaining to ...more
Sarah Etter
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
An innovative blend of memoir, research, and cultural commentary that masterfully grapples with domestic violence in queer relationships. I couldn't put it down. Split up into powerful, dense vignettes, In The Dream House just made me cancel all of my plans so I could finish it immediately. So excited to see this one enter the world- one of the best of the year, and one you will not forget. For fans of Ocean Vuong's On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous, I think these two books sit really well ...more
Never Without a Book
Nov 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Soooo, this one I couldn't put down and super easy to read, well kind of (subject matter was a tough one) I'm just...Wow! read this ASAP!
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
sometimes, when extremely lucky, i read something that is so incandescent it feels as though i am floating through space and being held by an author’s sentences, their use of language, their way of literally breaking the ground beneath all of our feet to unearth something terrifying but something we need to look at.

i shivered through every page of this book. as a queer sort-of-mostly-woman, seeing a queer woman explore this terrain of intimate partner violence was... so much. we need this book.
Anna Luce
3 stars

While I definitely admire Carmen Maria Machado for having not only the strength to tackle such a difficult subject matter but to do so by sharing her own personal experience with her readers, and part of me also can't help but to recognise that In the Dream House: A Memoir is one of the most innovative memoir I have ever read, I would be lying if I said (or wrote) that it was flawlessly executed. I'm definitely glad to see that many other reviewers are praising it and or have clearly
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5 rounded up

A genre-defying memoir detailing an abusive relationship the author was in, In the Dream House makes for a compelling and thought-provoking read. Machado deftly blends memoir with non-fiction sections about abuse (emotional and psychological) in queer relationships, and I found the book to be both educational and moving. Highly recommended.

Thank you Netgalley and Serpent's Tail/Profile Books for the advance copy, which was provided in exchange for an honest review.
Oct 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Harrowing, phenomenal, unputdownable memoir. Machado is absolutely brilliant.
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Oh my goodness, this is stunning. A true cri de coeur from a woman of substance with the courage to be honest, the strength to be vulnerable, and the talent to make you care. Machado applies her formidable writing skills, and appropriates myriad literary genres, to address a problem that cannot be adequately explored through more limited means.

Different sections are bound to resonate for each reader. For what it's worth, those that spoke most powerfully to me were:

Dream House as...

an Exercise in
Aug 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't generally read memoirs, but when I got a copy of this book and flipped through it I knew it was going to be something different. And having read Machado before I also knew it would be beautifully written. What I got was something so astonishingly brilliant, so unique, so gorgeous, so visceral, so undeniably raw, it broke my heart and mended it in equal measure. This book absolutely blew me away.

Look, I don't gush very often. I don't give out many 5 star reviews. But this book is an
You were not always just a You. I was whole—a symbiotic relationship between my best and worst parts—and then, in one sense of the definition, I was cleaved: a neat lop that took first person—that assured, confident woman, the girl detective, the adventurer—away from second, who was always anxious and vibrating like a too-small breed of dog.

Better than I hoped it would be and perhaps my favourite of everything I’ve read so far this year.
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
From my review, now up at 4Columns (

In her new book, and first memoir, Carmen Maria Machado blasts her own experience with an abusive intimate partner into a sparking arc of story bits. Cycling through a staggering array of modes and strategies, In the Dream House wheels in and out of fabulist, formalist, and realist registers, cultural analysis and polemic to produce a fresh and unflinching interrogation of abuse in queer relationships. The structure
Anita Pomerantz
Dec 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is a literary memoir about domestic abuse in a lesbian relationship. I've read nothing like it and expect I never will again.

The structure is usual. Very short chapters each with a theme that is encapsulated in the title of the chapter i.e. Dream House as Time Travel, Dream House as Confession, Dream House as Romance Novel, etc. Many of the titles allude to a literary style or genre, but plenty refer to other things. Honestly, as I type this, it sounds utterly distracting, and yet in
Katie Long
Nov 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I hesitated before picking this up, because I don’t usually like memoirs, but this turned out to be exceptional. It’s part memoir, part exploration of cultural queer representation, and also asks important questions about who gets to tell a story and how. Machado, as would be expected if you have read her fiction, does all of this with imaginative style. Writing from two perspectives; first person for herself now, then second person for the painful past, she uses different styles and language ...more
Darryl Suite
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This blew my mind. I'm in awe. I'm not sure how to articulate my thoughts. It was powerful and a force. A bulldozer and a wrecking ball. The way this is structured made for a very unique and immersive experience indeed. What's a better way of saying I absolutely effing loved it.

Hope to do a full review
Amal El-Mohtar
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The difficulty in talking about this book is that I want to say, genuinely, that I could not stop reading it once I picked it up, without feeling gross about being being so irrevocably riveted by someone's description of a horrifyingly abusive situation. But Machado makes such work of it -- such scholarship, such rigorous dexterity, such flexible and tremendous voice -- that its magnetic power is that of her storytelling. Footnotes become grace notes, linking stark or subtle moments to ...more
Karen (idleutopia_reads)
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
There are books that have to be such a personal experience to the reader that one must feel compelled to allow each reader to enter the experience with a carte blanche. This is the case with In the Dream House. There’s so much that can be said about the book. It was hauntingly beautiful, it was a format that I didn’t expect, it wrung at my heartstrings and I was left awed at the vulnerabilities that Carmen Maria Machado allowed us to witness. Given the immensity of what she’s sharing, I can’t ...more
Jessica Sullivan
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This powerful memoir subverts form in such a compelling way, one that I think only a mind like Carmen Maria Machado could accomplish.

It’s a series of non-linear chapters, each driven by a narrative trope (i.e. Bildungsroman, noir, erotica), that form an account of Machado’s relationship with a woman who psychologically abused her.

But it’s not only that, it’s Machado “enter[ing] into the archive that domestic abuse between partners who share a gender identity is both possible and not uncommon
Nov 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing

Carmen Maria Machado follows up her award winning short-story collection HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES with this heart wrenching memoire recalling an abusive relationship with another woman. Told through multiple styles (from genre to academic to even a short visit to world of choose your own adventure), switching from first-person to second - person perspective, Machado brilliantly keeps her readers on their toes as she lures them into this emotionally devastating account.

As Machado deals with her
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
oh! my! god!!! was this the best book i’ve read this year? possibly. what a triumph. i can’t imagine how incredibly difficult this was to write, and yet the language is beautiful and the writing is sensitive and capable. i’m so glad i was able to read this book.
Paris (parisperusing)
Aug 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, arc
Carmen Maria Machado's In the Dream Houselures us through the onslaught of disquieting experiences she suffered at the hands of her female partner, whose compulsive, controlling, and at times narcissistic nature threatened to unspool the soft fabric of her already fragile sense of safety. Machado recounts their painful love story with alchemic purpose and precision, yet transforms her trauma — long etched into the walls of the figurative Dream House — into something therapeutic. Into something ...more
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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 ...more
“A reminder to remember: just because the sharpness of the sadness has faded does not mean that it was not, once, terrible. It means only that time and space, creatures of infinite girth and tenderness, have stepped between the two of you, and they are keeping you safe as they were once unable to.” 3 likes
“How to read her coldness: She is preoccupied. She is unhappy. She is unhappy with you. You did something and now she’s unhappy, and you need to find out what it is so she will stop being unhappy. You talk to her. You are clear. You think you are clear. You say what you are thinking and you say it after thinking a lot, and yet when she repeats what you’ve said back to you nothing makes sense. Did you say that? Really? You can’t remember saying that or even thinking it, and yet she is letting you know that it was said, and you definitely meant it that way.” 1 likes
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