Genre: Fantasy, Horror
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Length: 248 pages
Rating: 3 stars
Publication Date: October 3rd 2017
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 Husband Stitch ★★★★★
This story is the reason I gave this anthology a try. I first read it in The Long List Anthology Volume 1 edited by David Steffen and then again in The New Voices of Fantasy edited by Peter S. Beagle and Jacob Weisman so it was my third time reading it.
The Husband Stitch is a retelling of the Green Ribbon but more than that, it is a story about a woman and her body and how her life is expected to fulfill not only her husband’s wishes but also her child’s.
It is about consent, love, motherhood and giving everything to the ones you love. The writing is experimental and gorgeous, the style is unique but it worked so well with the story. Being the opening of the anthology , it set expectations very high for the rest. (Which is probably why I was so disappointed with the anthology as a whole, but we’ll get to that in a minute).
You can read this story for free HERE
The title is quite self-explanatory, Inventory is an inventory of a woman sex experiences in a future where the world is falling apart. I was a bit disappointed with this story because I feel like the post-apocalyptic context wasn’t explored as much as it could be. But imagining a world only through sex scenes isn’t an easy feat… I could understand why Machiado decided to tell this story by I cannot say it was particularly successful for me. The writing was beautiful but in the end, it left me quite underwhelmed.
Mothers is one the weirdest story of the collection. It starts off with a woman having a child with another woman. However, it’s not clear if the child exists or if he is just a metaphor for the relationship between the two women. The narrator is unreliable so it’s hard to follow what is actually going on. It is a story about motherhood and society’s expectations but I couldn’t connect with it personally because of how confused I was.
Real Women Have Bodies ★★★★
Set in a dystopian future where women are slowly dissolving into the air, this story follow a woman working in a dressshop where the spirit of the ghost women inhabits the clothes. This story is one of of my favorite of the collection, it punched me in the guts repeatedly as we slowly learn more about the cause of those disappearances.
The writing is gorgeous, the pacing is perfect and the themes explored such as the place of women in the society and sexuality were very interesting.
Especially Heinous ★★★★ 1/2
This story is retelling of each episode of the twelve seasons of Law & Order in very short snippets. I know it sounds tedious but I actually ended up really enjoying it (without having ever watched a single episodes of Law & Order in my life). I liked how all the snippets were connected together and how Machiado managed to create such an interesting and coherent picture with elements that seems completely disjointed at first!
Eight Bites ★★★
This story follows a woman who gets a bariatric surgery after being pressured by all the women in her family. If you ever went through an eating disorder, this story will not be easy to read as you experience the physical and emotional struggle the woman goes through. My favorite aspect of this story was the mother-daughter relationship and how it evolved after the surgery.
The Resident ★
This is the story I disliked the most. This story follows an author who joins a residence in the woods with other artists in order to finish her book and how she slowly becomes insane. The story makes less and less sense the more you read and at the end, I was so lost that I couldn’t figure out if all of that was supposed to be a dream or a story where things are supposed to make sense.
The protagonist of this story is extremely hard to sympathize with as she was extremely rude and awkward with everyone around her including her family for no apparent reasons. I don’t remember all the details of the story but I do remember my strong dislike for her.
Difficult at Parties ★★★ 1/2
Following a woman you can’t stop watching porn after suffering a sexual assault, this story was pretty painful to read, especially the moments where the relatives were trying to make her stop. It was a very hard read and, eventhough I am glad I read it, it’s not a story that I would ever reread
If I had to describe this collection in one word it would be bleak. Don’t get me wrong, most of the stories were good and had interesting discussions and themes but still, it was exhausting.
Also, I do consider myself a feminist but I don’t think Machiado and I are on the same page. I thought that most of her male protagonists were horrible people and although I met my share of asshats, the majority of the men I know are not devils. I found myself a bit tired with this vision of the world where if you are not a woman, it means that you can’t understand one.
Another issue I had with this collection is the amount of sex scenes that it had, I have nothing against sex in books but Machiado’s vision of sex is uncomfortable for a lack of a better word. I never read sex scenes so tedious and un-erotic before. It felt almost aggravating to the women’s body especially when it was with a dude and yeah, it wasn’t pleasant at all.
However, I have to recognize that Machiado’s writing is absolutely gorgeous and her ideas are fascinating. I absolutely recommend The Husband’s Stitch to everyone because it is still one of the best piece of short fiction I ever read but, would I recommend the collection? Not really, no, just because I can’t even decide myself if I liked it or not.