Review | In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

For years Carmen Maria Machado has struggled to articulate her experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. In this extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir, Machado tackles a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, as she uses a series of narrative tropes—including classic horror themes—to create an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.

In the Dream House is the first memoir I’ve read. Despite that, I feel extremely confident in saying that it is unlike any memoir that I ever will read.

From the outset, it is important to note that this memoir delves recounts the author’s experiences in an abusive same-sex relationship. I found some scenes difficult to read because of this; they resonated so deeply with me that finishing the memoir felt like catharsis.

Despite its heavy subject matter, In the Dream House is compulsively readable and flows almost like fiction. Its writing is experimental, seamlessly introducing new narrative styles and genres (including, but not limited to, a choose your own adventure story and gothic thriller) with each chapter. I absolutely loved this; it was interesting and well-researched, and I learned a lot from the footnotes alone. More than that, though, it felt true to the healing process — abuse survivors commonly report fragmented memories and senses of self, and it is often easier to come to terms with the magnitude of what was experienced by recounting it as a story rather than something that happened to me.

I finished In the Dream House several days ago, and it’s been on my mind ever since. It’s beautiful, heavy, haunting, and cathartic; an emotionally resonant read I won’t soon forget.

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