This collection of short stories heavily emphasizes the violence that we put on women’s bodies. Whether it be sexual violence, physical violence, violence put on us by society, or violence we put on ourselves. This entire collection is absolutely haunting in the best way possible. I won’t forget this collection, ever. And these are all so queer, and so feminist, and invoked so many emotions from me. Carmen Maria Machado is beyond words talented, and I feel so very blessed to even have been able to read this.
I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!
➽ THE HUSBAND STITCH – ★★★★★
This is my second time reading this, and it is just as powerful and hard hitting as it was the first time around. You can read this for free from Granta!, and I implore each and every one of you who is reading this review to do yourself a favor and read this short story.
This story is very feminist and very sexually explicit, but so damn important. It’s about the life of a woman, who gives everything to men and never is allowed to keep anything for herself. It’s about life’s expectations on women, and how society shapes the choices we do and do not have. It’s about how, no matter what, giving everything will never be good enough as a woman. It’s about enjoying and exploring your sexuality, yet trying to cope with the shame. It’s about never fully being able to become the person you are, but becoming the person your husband and/or family require you to be. It’s about having children, who will just repeat the same vicious and unfair cycle. This is my favorite short story of all time and it deserves all the stars that Goodreads and every other book rating site has to offer.
➽ INVENTORY – ★★★★
This is essentially an inventory list of all the sexual encounters this particular woman has had during her thirty years while her world escalates into chaos. I loved looking at this sexual exploration, journey, and acceptance. And it evoked such raw emotion from me. I just didn’t think it was as hard hitting as some of the others in the collection.
Also, if you enjoyed this short story, please check out The Book of the Unnamed Midwife by Meg Elison! I honestly can’t recommend it enough, and both stories have a similar theme, feeling, and hauntingness to them.
➽ MOTHERS – ★★★
This is a very metaphorical story that starts out with a woman being given a baby by her female lover that they created unbeknownst to the narrator. And I use the word narrator very loosely, because this story is very unreliable. You will constantly be unsure of what is real and what is not, but you slowly get to see a story unfold. I also wholeheartedly believe that this story is very open for interpretation, and what I got from it could be, and probably is, something very different from what you were able to take from it. And that in and of itself is beyond words beautiful.
➽ ESPECIALLY HEINOUS – ★★
This is a retelling of each season and episode of Law & Order: SVU that dips into the realm of the paranormal, but because I have never seen that show (I know, I know) I don’t think I got that much enjoyment out of this one. I still thought it was so very smartly written, and it has that haunting feeling that I know associate with Carmen Maria Machado, but I just wasn’t as in love with this as I feel others will be.
➽ REAL WOMEN HAVE BODIES – ★★★★★
This story felt like a punch to the gut over and over and over. Words can be so powerful, and Carmen Maria Machado has perfected the craft of writing, I swear. Women in this world fade slowly and eventually become invisible. We get to see a dress shop, that puts youth and beautiful before all else, and a few of the workers are grasping to those values. Growing older, and feeling less valuable because of it, is a concept that many people in this world can’t deal with, without having to turn invisible. And I’m not going to lie to you and say that when I read that one of the characters of this book was twenty-nine that I didn’t try to suppress that visceral feeling that I don’t even have words for, but I wish so badly that I didn’t feel.
➽ EIGHT BITES – ★★★★★
First and foremost, this short story would be so very trigging for anyone who has battled any form of eating disorder before, so please use caution before reading this one. Food and body obsession is so very real, and people will go their entire lives never knowing peace with themselves because of it. This is a story about a woman who has struggled her entire life and has finally decided to get bariatric surgery. This story also heavily talks about how we pass these terrible feelings and values down to our daughters and other generations, over and over.
➽ THE RESIDENT – ★★★
Like most of the stories in this collection, this story felt really personal to read. Like, autobiographical personal. This is about a woman who goes up to the mountains, where she also spent some of her youth as a Girl Scout, to work on her novel among other artists. We slowly get to see the writer slowly comes undone by her past and her present, but also embraces and comes to terms with who she is and how she is. It’s a beautiful mixture that I think most humans will really resonate with.
➽ DIFFICULT AT PARTIES – ★★★★
This was probably the most raw feeling story for me, and it really left me feeling empty. This is about a woman dealing, coping, and trying to heal with the aftermath of a sexual assault. Between others trying to help her, to hoping her assailant is found, and trying to find some sort of peace within herself, she is using pornography as a healing mechanism. Again, this is going to really be hard for a lot of people to read, but it’s also going to hit home for so many readers that need stories like this.
I really loved this collection, and I gave Her Body and Other Parties 4 stars overall, because out of a possible 40 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 8 stories) this collection accumulated 31 stars (77%). Please pick this up, this is such an important book for everyone to read, and I can’t recommend it enough.