Her Body & Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body And Other Parties is a book of incisive short stories that combine bodies, sex and relationships, horror, science fiction, and pressing issues in imaginative ways. The main characters are mostly women, living in uncanny worlds that can be apocalyptic, magical, and/or unnervingly almost real. In one, the truth about a dress shop and the women slowly going incorporeal drives an employee away from the store. In another, the ribbon around a woman’s neck becomes a mysterious focus in a story that highlights the act of telling stories and of the sounds of telling them aloud. Others play with structure—an inventory of sex that depicts a virus epidemic across the globe, a story told using Law & Order: SVU episode titles—or with common issues like dieting and motherhood, in ways that rethink how these things can be considered.

To describe the stories doesn’t quite do justice to the freshness and imagination of the collection, not only in the ideas and the blending of magical realism, sci-fi, horror, and the reality of life, but in the way they are written. The writing style is distinctive, creating atmosphere and digging deep into the female protagonists. These women have varied relationships with their bodies, different dynamics with their male and/or female lovers, assorted pasts and futures, but what unites them all is the way their stories are both real and surreal.

Some of the stories will likely have a greater effective on different people—as someone who actually thought the acronym was SUV, the Law & Order structured one passed me by quite massively—but this is an important collection. The stories do exciting things with ideas and writing, and the use of the uncanny and the monstrous to highlight issues particularly around women’s bodies and sexualities is creative and thought provoking.