Machado, Carmen Maria.
With the rise of the Women's March and #MeToo movements bringing increased attention to feminism and problems of sexual harassment in the cultural and political sectors, this short story collection centering on female sexuality and personal autonomy is perfectly in-tune with the zeitgeist. Machado's stories are remarkable for their clarity of tone and theme, as well as clever and experimental stylistic elements that will provoke and surprise. For example, in "Especially Heinous", the writer invents TV Guide summaries for imaginary episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, satirizing the incongruous intersection of kitschy entertainment with the genuine suffering of crime victims. "The Husband Stitch" is another story that twists pop culture inside-out, this time evoking the hidden cultural realities underlying the scares and gore of campfire horror stories and urban legends. As clever as this all is, I found that the focus on theme rather than character occasionally blunted the stories' emotional impact for me. The stories often read as allegories or thought experiments, discouraging deeper identification with their protagonists. Nevertheless, this is a fascinating collection and a must-read for those reflecting on the cultural and political turmoil of 2017.
Meghan Casey (Staff) (Queen's Square Library)