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Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

her body

Having just finished this book a few days ago, I can understand why it’s getting such mixed reviews from readers. People seem to either love or hate this book. As someone who doesn’t typically love short stories, I was skeptical about this book but Carmen Machado made me a believer. Here’s why..

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Published: 2017
Reviewed by: Jen
Rating: 4 stars
Find it here: Her Body and Other Parties

Those of you who know me well and have been following this blog for a while know that I love quirky, unusual books and this one fits the bill. Angela Carter is one of my favorite authors and these stories are reminiscent of Angela Carter. Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of 8 short stories/fables are that are all either dreamlike (often nightmarish) or fantastical but with themes that are all too real and unsettling. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award and has been getting a lot of critical acclaim. I received my copy in my Powell’s Indiespensible subscription. I’m pretty convinced that the Powell’s staff who select these books are mind readers because I love almost every book I receive.

Anyway, back to the book. These stories are all about women, their bodies, and their relationships. The book and the stories are dark (much like original fairy tales) and many are filled with graphic sex and language which will be off-putting to some readers but I felt it was entirely appropriate given the tone and content of the stories.

The tales are pretty terrifying and unsettling. They are stories of violence or possibility of violence, of psychological fear, and of what could be. At heart they are stories of women’s experiences and relationships and they are terrifying because while they are horror/fantasy, they feel like they could be all too real. Most of the stories were pretty strong although I personally didn’t love the final story which made me bump it down from a 5-stars to 4 stars. The collection contains a retelling of a classic horror story (The Green Ribbon, remember that horrifying story from when you were a child?), a thoroughly horrifying reimagining of Law & Order SVU episodes (which leaves us wondering about the show and its purpose), a story about invisible women being sown into prom dresses, a tale about a women contemplating bariatric surgery, a woman recounting her list of sexual encounters (with men and women) while a plague kills off humanity, and a story of a writer who goes to a artist’s retreat near an old girl scout camp. Many, but not all, of the stories end in somewhat ambiguous ways, leaving the reader to interpret the ending for themselves.

I loved the stories, loved the beautiful writing, loved the diversity of women represented (in terms of sexuality, personality, etc), and reveled in the creativity of this author. Carmen Machado is an author that I’ll be adding to my list of must read authors. This was her debut novel which is kind of amazing.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

(If you read this story out loud, please use the following voices:
ME: as a child, high-pitched, forgettable; as a woman, the same.
THE BOY WHO WILL GROW INTO A MAN, AND BE MY SPOUSE: robust with serendipity.
MY FATHER: kind, booming; like your father, or the man you wish was your father.
MY SON: as a mall child, gentle, sounding with the faintest of lisps; as a man, like my husband.
ALL OTHER WOMEN: interchangeable with my own.)

Many people live and die without ever confronting themselves in the darkness

When you think about it, stories have this way of running together like raindrops in a pond. Each is borne from the clouds separate, but once they have come together, there is no way to tell them apart.

I called her two days later, never having believed more firmly in love at first sight, in destiny. When she laughed on the other end of the line, something inside of me cracked open, and I let her step inside.

I highly recommend this book but for select readers. If you love dark fiction, women’s issues, feminist stories, queer fiction, and retellings then you will love this book. I think this book will appeal to those who like Angela Carter’s work. If you are bothered by graphic sex and language or you are a reader who doesn’t care for fantasy/sci-fi elements, you may not care for this book.

We want to hear from you. Does this book sound like your cup of tea? Have you read it? What did you think?

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. What a great review! Sounds like my cup of very DARKLY/brewed coffee. Must order.

    Liked by 2 people

    January 23, 2018
  2. Great review! I SO cannot wait for this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    January 23, 2018
  3. madeleinebouquet #

    Nice review! I may have to add this to my TBR.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 23, 2018
    • Thanks! Let me know if you end up reading it and what you think!

      Like

      January 23, 2018
  4. Thanks for this review! I’d heard it about it a bit, and its nomination made me add to my tbr, but your review has piqued my interest even more. Even if I don’t necessarily love it, I’m fairly certain it’ll be thought-provoking.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 23, 2018
    • I think you may enjoy it. It’s definitely a thought provoking book.

      Liked by 1 person

      January 23, 2018
  5. Tracy S #

    I agree with you- all the stories were great, except that last one. I really loved the first story- an even darker telling of a story that kept me awake at night as a child. I appreciated her settings and pacing- each story felt complete, even if it wasn’t tied up in a neat little bow. Definitely an author to watch.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 23, 2018
  6. hmmm you made me interested

    Liked by 1 person

    January 23, 2018
  7. I finished this one a few days ago, it was my third time reading the first story (it was already published in a few anthologies) and I have to say that I hav mixed feelings about it. Some stories are incredibly powerful and other left me confused and underwhelmed so I guess I would rate this a three stars which is a shame because the first story is simply incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

    January 23, 2018
    • Too bad you didn’t like the rest of the stories as much. I do agree that the first story was incredible but I also loved most of the others too

      Like

      January 23, 2018
  8. Nicole R #

    Nope! While I appreciate the themes that the author describes, you know I am not one for sexual violence. I guess you don’t explicitly say sexual violence, but the description of “dark” makes me think that is a theme….

    Liked by 1 person

    January 24, 2018
    • Nope, I don’t think there is any sexual violence but I don’t think it’s a book you will like.

      Like

      January 24, 2018
  9. Susie #

    I’m really looking forward to this. Dark always works for me!

    Liked by 1 person

    January 24, 2018
    • Anita didn’t like it as much so
      I hope you like it as much as I did!

      Like

      January 24, 2018

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