This book floored me the other day. First off, thanks to Pajiba for highlighting this book in it’s best of the bunch year for 2018. The Best and Worst of Cannonball 10 article had this book as the best by Mrs. Smith Reads. It looked interesting based on her description, “Carmen Maria Machado’s collection of short stories is nothing short of perfection, and brings everything I was looking for in a year of reading mostly feminist, female-identified, and woman-positive fiction writers.” That sounded right up my alley and thank goodness I read this because it was. Some of the stories read a bit weird to me, but still fantastic and I felt like my brain was flip flopping back and forth between being uncomfortable and enjoying. The only reason why I gave this four stars is that one of the stories, the SUV one went on too long past me caring anymore. Everything else was sublime. Can I say sublime? Eh, I just did it anyway.
The Husband Stitch (5 stars)-Wow. You want to start your collection off with a bang I see. And a bang she did. This story has everything. You may want to prepare yourself with Machado’s in your face writing style too. The main character in this one is in tune with her body and her wants. When she meets her now husband she practically wants to crawl inside of him. She gives him all of herself, but holds a piece back. She has a ribbon around her neck that she has asked him not to touch. And though she gives everything, and I mean everything, it still bothers him that this one thing is hers alone. The ending was a shocker. Also men kind of suck. There I said it. You got a perfect woman, but still need to pry? This one read more magical realism to me.
Inventory (5 stars)-Reading about how a plague seems to be wiping out humanity and our narrator recounting that along with her lost lovers. Once again, Machado’s style of writing is in your face and aggressive. I seriously wish I had been reading this book in the bath with a glass of ice cold white wine. This story was definitely a mood. This one was definitely more horror influenced.
Mothers (5 stars)-Also horror influenced with some magical realism I think. But also grounded in the real world. A narrator recounts her lesbian lover and the violence she starts to mete out on her. Along the way she starts imagining their new life with children.
Especially Heinous (3 stars)-A short story that focuses on Stabler and Benson from Law and Order SUV. You get the title card of their episode with a short description of what happens. This was too much for me. I think if it had been shorter I would have loved it more. But there was a lot going on in this one and then there were dopplegangers and I tapped out.
Real Women Have Bodies (4 stars)-The woman in this one dealing with the fact that there seems to be a mass disappearance of women all over the world.
Eight Bites (5 stars)-This one got me. Reading about a woman who rejects her body because it’s not seen as beautiful and in the end realizing that her body that she doesn’t love will be there in the end for it like no one else.
The Resident (4.5 stars)-A woman on a retreat to focus on her writing finds something totally unexpected in the woods she played in as a child. This one definitely had some horror elements wrapped up in it and at one point I thought it was a bit similar to some of King’s short stories about writers and what goes on in their heads. The only reason why I give this one 4.5 stars and not 5 stars was because the ending was a bit confusing. I don’t know. I need to ask someone about it.
Difficult at Parties (5 stars)-Wow. This one was brutal and a great way to end this collection. Something happens to the woman in this story which I think you can guess at which leaves her feeling alone with a husband (or boyfriend) who is becoming increasingly impatient with her.
I read this for the “Pajiba” square. I already linked to the article which referenced this book. I do tend to go back through and see if I have read the best of books that the Cannonballers referenced and if I have time to add them to my must read for the following year. This was such a good collection. So glad I picked it up.