2 Stars Reviews

Book Review: Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Goodreads summary: 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 first word that comes to mind regarding Her Body and Other Parties is ‘visceral’. It doesn’t shy away from anything, it’s almost brutal in it’s language. I really enjoyed the first two stories, ‘The Husband Stitch’ and ‘Inventory’. Unfortunately, I struggled through the rest of the book. It was refreshing in its eccentricity but I still found myself slightly apathetic towards the remainder of the stories. ‘Especially Heinous’ really dragged for me, and I think this coloured my enjoyment of everything that came after it. I don’t want to say that the short story format hindered my enjoyment because I generally enjoy short story collections but I feel like I’d enjoy a novel-length work from Machado much more than I did this collection.

Rating: 2 / 5 stars

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