By Sarah Smith, Adult Services
“It is July. Iowa in July is nothing but drama: wet heat, tornado warnings, thunderstorms so violent you have to pull the car over. Mosquitoes flock to you; your legs are swollen with their needs.”
Sometimes a book is hard to describe. It challenges you as a reader, and you can’t quite find a simple way to convince other readers that they might like reading it as much as you did. Even though you know in your heart that the right reader will find the experience of reading it just as moving, just as powerful.
“In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado is one of those books for me. It is a memoir. It has a strong sense of place, is lyrically written, and is stylistically and structurally complex. Each short chapter is like its own essay or short story, pulling from different literary traditions or perspectives or tools of literary analysis. Each a different way to try to capture the complexity of life – the facts, the emotions, the messy and hard-to-remember parts.
It’s a book for people who gravitate toward fairy tales. It is a coming-of-age story about finding yourself, finding your voice, finding your place, and finding perspective. It takes place, in part, in Iowa.
It is the story of an abusive relationship. An abusive lesbian relationship.
It took me more than two years to finish this 250 page book because of the intensity of Machado’s story and the emotional impact that had on me. Because I wanted to take the time to savor the way she wrote her story, and to go back and reread pieces. Because the central relationship to Machado’s story is taboo in so many ways. Because this book left me with a lot to think about. It’s the sort of book that sticks with me, that I remember at odd moments.
Because I knew other readers should read this book, but I didn’t have the words to express why.
You should read “In the Dream House” by Carmen Maria Machado if you’ve ever struggled to make sense of the story of your own life.
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