In this collection of eight short stories, author Carmen Maria Machado explores the lives of women through a journey into psychological realism, fantasy, horror, and more. In “The Husband Stitch”, a husband attempts to remove the green ribbon tied around his wife’s neck — her only secret. In “The Resident”, a writer has trouble reckoning with her childhood trauma while vacationing in isolation at an artists’ retreat. In “Especially Heinous”, the show Law and Order: SVU is reimagined with doppelgängers, insanity, and the ghosts of raped and murdered girls. Through the presentation of intensely uncomfortable yet impactful narratives, Machado examines the pain, violence, and pleasure visited upon the bodies of women.
I really liked this book! The stories were so strange and visceral in the best way possible, and the writing was elegant, dark, and sensual. I loved how unsettling and haunting the narratives were, as well as the unapologetically feminist stance they took. It also surprised me in its consistency — I liked most of the stories, something I didn’t expect since short stories tend to vary in their performance. Of course, there was still some variation — I thought “Especially Heinous” dragged a bit and was unnecessarily long, and “Mothers” was a bit too abstract for me, while “The Husband Stitch” and “Real Women Have Bodies” blew me away. Overall, I enjoyed this book a lot and I would definitely recommend it!