In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
November 5, 2019 by Graywolf Press
Review by Melanie
I listened to In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado and it was, quite simply, a beautiful experience. This is such an unusual book in so many ways – it’s a memoir but reads as fiction. It’s a domestic abuse narrative but it’s also poetry. It’s increasingly horrifying but it’s also lyrical on audio. This is one of those books I absolutely recommend you listen to, as it’s read by the author and the narration gives the story so much feeling and reminds me a bit of Elizabeth Acevedo, in that she brings so much to the story with her voice and prose that way.
Each chapter begins by a heading: “Dream House as Word Problem” or “Dream House as Confession” and reads almost as a short story. The entirety which is not told in a linear fashion, which sounds confusing but is not in any way, because Machado masterfully ties them all together. Each chapter builds the house and the book carefully brick by brick.
She tells the story of her ex and the abuse she faced in that relationship. But it’s not only an abuse narrative, it’s also a story about the complexities of queer relationships and the lack of lesbian domestic abuse stories when she had been coming of age. The actual story of her relationship is straightforward and hard to hear but as it’s woven throughout the lyrical nature of this book I found it much easier to read.
I highly recommend this book and think that it’s one so many people would appreciate and benefit from reading as well. It’s not graphic – as in there is no literal violence in it, the abuse is manipulative and emotional and mental – but it’s all very familiar. Take care of yourselves!
CW: domestic abuse