Our favorite books of the year.
Machado intricately intertwines many different genres to create her own unsettling and fantastical tone in this stunning debut. Rife with stories of violence upon women and their bodies and queer love, Her Body and Other Parties tells an unapologetic and tense narrative about the struggles women are forced to face. Recommended By Brianna B., Powells.com
This remarkable set of stories takes us right into the battle of who owns a woman's body, and, working in multiple genres, blows open a hole of thought and understanding in any reader with empathy. Recommended By Doug C., Powells.com
Machado reimagines everything from folklore to Law & Order: SVU in ways that are psychologically wrought, fiercely feminist in their concerns, and urgently real. Each of the stories in this collection grabs hold and doesn't let go, but "Especially Heinous" and "Difficult at Parties" are particularly haunting — both dealing with the emotional aftermath of sexual violence and the voicelessness that violence elicits in its victims — a voicelessness this writer seeks to give voice to, and does in devastating and breathtaking ways. Recommended By Darla M., Powells.com
Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado’s sublimely creepy debut, draws on the lexicons of urban legend, the 19th-century British gothic, and American society’s evolving ideas about female corporeality to tell stories about women on the edge. In the liminal worlds of Her Body and Other Parties — positioned somewhere between 21st-century America and a horrorscape of breathing pavement and sentient dresses — an intangible, living darkness reaches out to hurt women, or convince them to hurt themselves. The dread this darkness inspires powers Machado’s riveting short story collection, which heralds the arrival of a brilliant and incisive writer. Recommended By Rhianna W., Powells.com
Her Body and Other Parties is a collection of stories that boast sentient dresses, spirits of surgically removed fat, women with precariously attached limbs, and the metaphysical refashioning of the television serialization of sexual violence. It's a book that brings striking form to female pain and queer desire, and each story is a feast woven together with sentences that are good enough to eat. Recommended By Cosima C., Powells.com
I still cannot believe that this is a debut title. It's that good. Every person should read this — they may not get it, but it is worth trying. This book encompasses a lovely, wrenching mix of phenomenal prose, intriguing science fiction premises, and a basis in reality that gets to your core. Recommended By Shayna O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
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 doppelgängers, 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.
“[Her Body and Other Parties] is that hallowed thing: an example of almost preposterous talent that also encapsulates something vital but previously diffuse about the moment...Machado is a master of such pointed formal play, of queering genre and the supposed laws of reality to present alternative possibilities....Machado reveals just how original, subversive, proud and joyful it can be to write from deep in the gut, even — especially — if the gut has been bruised.” Los Angeles Times
“Machado builds entire interior lives through sparse and minor details, turning even litanies of refrigerator contents and free-association on the coming of autumn into memorable meditations on identity and female disempowerment....Machado’s slightly slanted world echoes our own in ways that will entertain, challenge, and move readers.” Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
“The stories in Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties vibrate with originality, queerness, sensuality, and the strange. Her voracious imagination and extraordinary voice beautifully bind these stories about fading women and the end of the world and men who want more when they’ve been given everything and bodies, so many human bodies taking up space and straining the seams of skin in impossible, imperfect, unforgettable ways.” Roxane Gay
“Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties tells ancient fables of eros and female metamorphosis in fantastically new ways. She draws the secret world of the body into visibility, and illuminates the dark woods of the psyche. In these formally brilliant and emotionally charged tales, Machado gives literal shape to women's memories and hunger and desire. I couldn’t put it down.” Karen Russell
“Machado writes with furious grace. She plays with form and expectation in ways that are both funny and elegant but never obscure....An exceptional and pungently inventive first book.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
About the Author
Carmen Maria Machado is the author of Her Body and Other Parties, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and winner of the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize. She lives in Philadelphia with her wife.
Carmen Maria Machado on PowellsBooks.Blog
Her Body and Other Parties
, the new story collection by Carmen Maria Machado, is one of those books that is almost impossible to believe is a debut, particularly by a young author. Inventive, dark, playful, authoritative, and exciting, these stories will knock you off-center and linger in your brain...
Kelsey Ford on PowellsBooks.Blog
I love short story collections because of how much they manage to do with so little. They can dilate, expand, shatter, constellate. Within any given collection, you can move from the moon to a diner after midnight to that liminal minute right when you wake up but are still knee-deep in a dream..