On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Where myth, magical realism and women's bodies mix

Share story

'Her Body and Other Parties' by Carmen Maria Machado
'Her Body and Other Parties' by Carmen Maria Machado
Courtesy of publisher

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke with Jen Murvin from Pagination in Springfield, Mo.

Carmen Maria Machado's short story collection, "Her Body and Other Parties," was a finalist for the National Book Award — and remains a favorite of Jen Murvin's.

"It is just one of my favorite story collections I have ever read," she said. "I am a big fan of magical realism and these stories are so contemporary. ... Typically with magical realism, the writer is working with a particular kind of myth or folklore and colliding it with our real world. And in this collection, [Machado] is regularly utilizing real world medical things that we do to women's bodies, and colliding them with mythology and folktale to create this really wonderful metaphor. The stories are really inventive, they're often horrifying, beautifully lyrical, just different than anything I've read in a really long time."

"It's really hard to pick a favorite story out of this collection. I think the story that brought me to the collection is 'The Husband Stitch,' which is based on a real procedure that often happens to women when they give birth," Murvin said. Machado mixes that medical procedure with a dose of urban legend, weaving it together with the story of the girl with the ribbon around the neck — which may be familiar, terrifying territory for some.

"I'm also a professor at Missouri State University and I love to teach this particularly story, 'The Husband Stitch,' in combination with 'The Yellow Wallpaper,' [by Charlotte Perkins Gilman]. To me they have a lot in common about the ways in which sometimes we are betrayed by maybe our doctors or the people closest to us."

The whole collection is "just very stunning. It's a little disturbing, often horrifying, but just so effective you can't look away once you start reading the first line."

Her Body and Other Parties Her Body and Other Parties