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Review: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

April 4, 2018
 Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado, Book Review, InToriLex
Published By: Graywolf Press on October 3, 2017
Format Read: Paperback Edition (248 pages)
Genre: Short Stories/ Feminism/ Fantasy
Series: Stand Alone
Source: Purchased
Rating: THREE POINT FIVE STARS
Her Body and Other Parties
~Amazon~
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.

VERDICT:

Content Warning: Disordered Eating, Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault, Dead Animals

REVIEW:

A wonderful collection of stories highlighting feminist, queer and many other marginalized perspectives. I enjoyed most of these stories, but felt confused about others. My rating reflects how these stories were a mixed bag of good and bad.  I'm going to share my thoughts on each of the short stories included below.

"Husband Stitch"- A horror fairy tale retelling told from an empowered and sexually free woman's point of view. It gave a fresh look to a old tale. The protagonist described her virginity as becoming new and I pleasantly surprised by the description.
"The silky suds between my legs are the color and scent of rust, but I am newer than I have ever been."
"Inventory"- This describes a woman's male and female lovers after the onset of the plaque that slowly kills off most of the population. It was great reading about someone's experiences during such a hard time through the relationships she has with others. The bi-sexuality representation in this story was refreshing.

"Mothers"-This described a unhealthy relationship told through flashbacks and a protagonist who is left with a infant. I was really confused while reading about what was happening in the present and the past. The hard topics were couched between flowery descriptions, and I didn't enjoy the ending.
"I believe in a world where impossible things happen. Where love can outstrip brutality, can neutralize it, as though it never was or transform it into something new and more beautiful. Where love can outdo nature"
"Especially Heinous"- In order to enjoy this satire of Law and Order: SVU, you have to be familiar with the show. I loved this story. It was told through episode descriptions of the show and included humor, horror elements and doppelgangers. This is the longest story in the collection but the shirt blurbs and weird elements keeps me engaged the whole time.
"REDEMPTION: Benson accidentally catches a rapist when she Google-stalks her newest OKCupid date. She can't decide whether or not to mark this in the "success" ("caught rapist") or failure ( "date didn't work out") column. she marks it in both.
"Real Women Have Bodies"- A not to distant future story where women are beginning to disappear and exist in the world without their bodies. This story reminded me of the very isolating and often ignored health problems that women face. Most of the time they are expected to get through them with little to no help or resources from the larger society. It was a great illustration of how women exist in the world, fading and ignored.

"Eight Bites"- A woman decides to get weight loss surgery and must deal with mental and physical consequences because of it. This included paranormal  and magical realism elements. It encouraged the reader to think more deeply about how they treat and value themselves.   

"The Resident"-This story follows a writer on her journey to a residency that goes wrong. It is full of weird elements and a protagonists who must confront her past. Some of the descriptions made me queasy and the ending left me with more questions then answers.

"Difficult at Parties"-This was a confusing story that allowed us to view a woman's life after a traumatic event through her actions after it. It was like viewing a painting through a peep hole. I want to learn more about everything. I was unnerved by what I was able to see.

Recommended for readers who:
-empowering feminist driven stories
-enjoy multi-genre stories
-want to read own voice writers with marginalized representation

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carmen Maria Machado’s debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2017. She is a fiction writer, critic, and essayist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, AGNI, NPR, VICE, Best American Science Fiction & Fantasy 2015, Best Horror of the Year, Year’s Best Weird Fiction, and Best Women’s Erotica. She has been the recipient of a Millay Colony for the Arts residency, the CINTAS Foundation Fellowship in Creative Writing, the Elizabeth George Foundation Fellowship, and a Michener-Copernicus Fellowship, as well as nominated for a Nebula and Shirley Jackson Awards and longlisted for a Tiptree Award. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the Clarion Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers’ Workshop, and lives in Philadelphia with her partner.
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