Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado | Book Review

★★★☆☆
June 21st – 23rd

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at a total loss for how to rate this. Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of light fantasy/science fiction feminist stories that explore women’s sexuality. There were a few stories that I really enjoyed, a few I did not enjoy at all, and one I didn’t understand so much that I ended up not finishing it.

I also want to preface this by saying that I’m very aware that this collection is important to a lot of people, and my review is not a reflection of anyone’s experiences. I think that this should go without saying, but this review is entirely how I felt about each of the stories. I’m going to break down each one with a small paragraph and a rating for that individual story.

The Husband Stitch – ★★★☆☆
I think this story was decent, but it being the first one definitely meant that I had to adjust to Machado’s writing style. I think that if I were to go back and re-read this one again, having read the others, I might like it a bit more.

Inventory – ★★★☆☆
This story is a series of small paragraphs about all of the partners that the main character has had over their life set over the background of a contagion-style epidemic. I listened to this one on audiobook, and I really liked the narration style, but it felt very list-like to me.

Mothers – ★★☆☆☆
I would be completely lying if I said that I understood any part of this story. I had no idea what was going on, and I’m sure that people will think I’m uncultured or didn’t get it. They’re right. I didn’t get it at all, and this one definitely was not for me.

Especially Heinous – DNF
This is… perhaps the weirdest thing that I’ve ever read. The whole thing is a bunch of paragraphs about each episode of Law & Order SVU. I’ve never watched an episode of SVU. I had no context for what was happening, and because everything was disjointed, I couldn’t force myself to sit through 272 of them with no context.

Real Women have Bodies – ★★★★☆
This was my favorite of all of the stories. This one takes place in a setting where women are fading away. The main character works in a dress store where the dresses seem to be shimmering and slightly magical. The story itself is very clearly a comment on beauty standards, but I really liked this one.

Eight Bites – ★★★☆☆
This one was almost four stars. This is about a woman who has a surgery to make herself thinner, which is what she thinks she wants. As with the last one, it’s a comment on beauty standards, but what I liked about this was that it was also more commentary about her loving herself, before and after.

The Resident – ★★★★☆
Another more vague story, this is all about introspection and being lost inside of your own mind. Though the whole thing is character based, I liked the voice of the main character the best here, and I liked her past paralleling what was happening in her present.

Difficult at Parties – ★★★☆☆
This story follows a woman who’s recently had something terrible happen to her, though it’s never explicitly stated exactly what. She has trouble with physical contact, though she wants more of it. This one was the most middle-of-the-road for me, and I liked the tone of it.

Total, I think that the full collection is important and worth reading. This book is more feminist than what I typically read, so I’m not very well-versed in this type of collection or genre. Machado has a memoir expected to come out in November, which I may add to my list of non-fiction for the future.

-Siobhan

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