Becky Spratford's Reviews > In the Dream House

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
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it was amazing

Three Words That Describe This Book: imaginative, haunting, heartbreakingly beautiful

Two of the last few books I read this year were memoirs. I am not a huge memoir reader and yet these two books were some of my favorites I read all year [GOOD TALK is the other one]

I love Machado. This is not news. You can read my review of HER BODY AND OTHER PARTIES here:

Something I wrote about that collection holds true for the appeal here, even though the first book was stories and this one is a memoir: "These stories are raw, frank, violent, and “weird,” but they are also beautiful and thought provoking. Despite the dark and serious subject matter, these are stories you want to read, and reread. "

That is the appeal in a nutshell. And here the style is also interesting because it is a memoir written as little mini stories.

The "Dream House" motif is used throughout the book. Each mini chapter [no more than a few pages each and some only half a page] images the "Dream House" as a different metaphor. And the metaphor frames the vignette Machado is relaying there. These metaphor titles such as "The Dream House as Unreliable Narrator," add a layer of meaning and interest to each vignette. Some are small some are hugely important. Some are happy, others sad. Some sexy some violent. All haunting.

This is Machado as a writer. She is extremely academic, brilliant, imaginative, and original. She is magician with words. The way the story is told is totally new [like her stories] and yet, it is still familiar and engaging to read. She also continues to proudly and loudly embrace genre motifs, especially speculative genres like horror and SF.

This is an important book because it is a candid and honest look at an abusive lesbian relationship [with appropriate hindsight]. We need more books that look at domestic abuse in all of its forms. And kudos to Machado for sharing such a personally difficult story. It is not just about the abuse, but about Machado herself and her struggle to become the well adjusted, functioning adult she is today.

It is a tale that is heart breakingly beautiful in every way. Thankfully we know going in that Machado made it out of the abusive relationship and is now happily married.

It is the coming of age of one of the most brilliant and creative writers of our current era too. Such a good book as a work of literature, as a needed diverse voice on domestic violence, and as an enjoyable read [enjoyable for people who enjoy memoirs of people overcoming terrible things, of whom there are lots].

Readalikes: There are so many memoirs of writers who have overcome abuse. Some that I think have a similar tone and technically excellent writing style that people would also enjoy would be ORDINARY GIRLS by Jaquira Diaz, EDUCATED by Tara Westover, LONG LIVE THE TRIBE OF FATHERLESS GIRLS by T. Kira Madden and of course THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeanette Walls.

I also think Machado's stories are similar to the writing of Karen Russell, and since I see overlap between Machado's fiction and nonfiction, I think you can suggest Russell's fiction here as well. Here is my review of Rusell's Orange World and Other Stories from earlier this year:
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Reading Progress

December 7, 2019 – Shelved
December 20, 2019 – Started Reading
December 26, 2019 – Finished Reading

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