I am going to be honest (as always) and say that I chose this as my first read of 2018 because I had such high hopes. Unfortunately, I wasn’t completely in love with these stories. I say stories because this is a collection of short stories about women that has a feminist/dystopian undertone.
Title: Her Body and Other Parties
Author: Carmen Maria Machado
Publisher: Graywolf Press
Purchased at Book Depository
Rating 3 out of 5 stars
Out of the eight short stories in this collection, my favourite was the very first one entitled, ” The Husband Stitch.” It is about a girl’s relationship with not only the boy who will as we see throughout the story become her husband, but also about her relationship with herself and how she is engulfed in what society feels she should live up to be. We see her grow from a naive girl who is exploring her own sexuality with her boyfriend into a mother and wife.
Throughout the story, it is evident that the author wants you to see and feel (it is very sexually explicit) the weight and control her husband has over her, especially with regards to her body (which is made evident by a his desire to pull on a green ribbon she has always has tied around her neck). She is constantly protecting that ribbon, not wanting anyone to see her without it. You can even see this detail carry on in her own toddler son as he tries to pull the green ribbon from her neck playfully. The green ribbon represents her self -worth, her dignity, her voice, her respect.
At the end of the tale, she does eventually allow her husband to pull the ribbon off after thinking about the many years he has taken care of her, given her a son, and been the love of her life.
“Do you want to untie the ribbon?” I ask him. “After these many years, is that what you want of me?”
His face flashes gaily, and then greedily, and he runs his hands up my bare breast and to my bow. “Yes,,” he says. ” Yes”.
“Then,” I say, “do what you want.”
-Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado
I won’t tell you want happens after that, but I will say this… wow!
Other stories include one about women disappearing into nothing, an account of a woman’s sexual experiences while a plague is wiping out the entire population of the world, and a woman who undergoes bariatric surgery and the psychological aftermath.
The stories were very creative and definitely have a message to be heard, but I had no empathy for the characters. They didn’t interest me. I feel like these women were not relatable to me, and so I didn’t care about them.
I also did not care for the way sexual acts were described in this book. I get it. Sex can be raw, unemotional, and detached, but at times I felt that the story could go on without having to remind me of the grim and loveless sex that these women are having. I understand the point she is making, but I felt that it sometimes muted the bigger picture here.
If you are looking for a story about girl power or fairytales, you are looking in the wrong place, but it is worth reading the “The Husband Stitch” and other stories if you’d like to explore the desolate, hopeless world of femininity.
You can purchase this book on Book Depository.