What could seem gimmicky—I confess I braced myself at first—quickly feels like the only natural way to tell the story of a couple. What relationship exists in purely one genre? What life? ... a hive of frenetic experimentation, tactics and tricks ... There is something anxious, and very intriguing, in the degree of experimentation in this memoir, in its elaborately titivated sentences, its thicket of citations. The flurry—the excess—feels deliberate, and summons up the image of the writer holding a ring of keys, trying each of them in turn to unlock a resistant story, to open a door she might be hesitant to enter ... written into the silence surrounding violence in queer relationships, the silences around emotional and psychological abuse ... a living archive of her own loving, idiosyncratic design.
... a wildly propulsive memoir, an ambulatory survey of the genre ... It’s easy for writers to prioritize the mind and forget about the body, with its cracks and chronic thrum; but Machado’s work is an aide-mémoire for corporeality ... Her memoir, like the dream house, is lived-in.
This review would be easier to write if Carmen Maria Machado weren’t so good ... Machado’s meta-intrusions disrupt and enrich in ways that hark to Jorge Luis Borges ... Sound complicated? Perhaps. But In the Dream House is a page turner of psychological suspense ... a literary treasure.
... the most innovative memoir I've ever read ... the kind of book that burrows under the reader's skin while simultaneously forcing her to inhabit the body of the writer ... Machado's writes about it all with devastating honesty and vulnerability, both of which are magnified by using second person. This is Machado's story of suffering and survival, but you are in there, and that makes the house your house, the girlfriend your girlfriend, the pain your pain, and the abuse Machado endured something you must digest and process yourself ... This book is a scream that ensures visibility, a chronicle of truth that weights more than a thousand theories and all the efforts to erase the reality of abuse in lesbian couples ... an uncomfortable read ... Throughout all of it, Machado learns to navigate her own sexuality and her writing while making sure she understands the place she occupies in a world that has always tried to erase women like her. This book makes that erasure impossible.
The book itself takes a breathtakingly inventive form ... This elaborate architecture could have felt florid, but the headings also help unlock each vignette’s function, like a brushstroke guiding viewers’ eyes around a painting ... These shifting angles of illumination achieve a full, strange representation of the subject ... Machado’s writing, with its heat and precise command of tone, has always had a sentient quality. But what makes In the Dream House a particularly self-aware structure—which is to say, a true haunted house—is the intimation that it is critiquing itself in real time. Machado seems to anticipate—and even riff on—our skepticism of her tricks ... Some of Machado’s preëmptive maneuvers work better than others ... Machado understands that memoir, like architecture, requires a sense of proportion. The problem is that women’s feelings are rarely ever considered proportional ... Machado understands that memoir, like architecture, requires a sense of proportion. The problem is that women’s feelings are rarely ever considered proportional ... Here and in her short stories, Machado subjects the contemporary world to the logic of dreaming. She is often said to spin urban legends or fairy tales; her writing, while clear, is full of nameless currents, hidden transactions between pleasure and terror. The result is a space that cannot, even years later, be easily escaped.
Machado reels us in. With bewitching, at times chant-like prose, Machado invites the reader into her dream house, lets us look in all the closets and the empty rooms ... a maze of emotion and analysis ... Almost everything about the narrative is relentless ... There is no way out and no answer, and that feeling is part of the genius of this book.
The exuberance, inventiveness, and obsessiveness of the memoir’s structure may put readers familiar with Machado’s short story collection Her Body and Other Parties ... The subject matter of her memoir, however, is vastly different ... In the Dream House ...confronts the issues of credibility, self-doubt, and disbelief that all too frequently arise when survivors of domestic abuse speak out. But the work also stands as an intervention explicitly aimed at the silences, erasures, and lacunae of the culture at large ... Although in our current political climate the 'last thing that queer women need is bad fucking PR,' Machado holds out hope that 'by expanding representation, we give space to queers to be—as characters, as real people—human beings' ... The innovative structure that Machado has devised for her memoir expertly and self-consciously creates such a space ... There is no predetermined form for such an account, no shape to which it must conform. The only limits are the intellect and imagination that the author can bring to bear on her experiences and, ultimately, what she cares to articulate about what she has worked (or is still working) through. Machado’s In the Dream House shows us that a narrative of lesbian domestic abuse can be her story told in precisely her way—a human story, full of artistry, candor, and grace.
A literary feat ... as cohesive as it is foreboding ... As the Dream House is built and torn down, Machado’s witty and resonant prose becomes a sturdier foundation than the promises made by her former partner ... balances information from the wider world with a very intimate history; citations from queer theorists and writers, along with the ever-growing wall of taboos enumerated from Thompson’s folk-literature collection, tend to elucidate instead of obfuscate ... an impressive, finely calibrated work of literature, one that throws open the door to a subject that’s still rarely broached, and makes the reader’s stay equally illuminating and unsettling. Machado, heartbreakingly enough, never loses her sense of playfulness amid all this dread ... By using familiar devices, she manages to tell all of these previously unheard stories in a devastatingly efficient manner. In assuming the roles of architect and archivist, Machado makes In The Dream House as much a memoir as a monument.
... this is a stunning book, both deeply felt and elegantly written ... [Machado's] digressive use of myth, literary, and cinematic archetypes and queer history does complicate the narrative. But it never dispels its momentum ... And though the relationship she chronicles, often with graphic candor, is indeed dark, her prose is exhilarating and precise. As a bonus, the story veers unexpectedly, albeit with some foreshadowing, toward a happy ending (even as she interrogates the very notion of endings).
I felt panicked as I read this book, though I felt mesmerized by Machado’s ability to convey her experience in such a beautiful way. Machado, who also authored the critically acclaimed short-story collection Her Body and Other Parties, is an incredible writer. She isn’t afraid to sweep beyond her reader’s understanding while also bringing them along the journey, which makes In the Dream House even more special. It’s not a book that has been compressed for reader comfort or reshaped to make it an easier experience for straight readers. Every page is a gut punch; Machado doesn’t skirt around the fact that our collective misunderstandings about gender, stereotypes about queer relationships, and the expectations we have about how women handle emotion, played directly into the abuse she experienced ... Machado leads a stunningly pointed discussion about gendered expectations causing women who love women to excuse abuse—and misunderstand how it functions in queer relationships ... Machado’s book vibrates truth.
Carmen Maria Machado’s In the Dream House is a difficult book ... a researched text that fills in gaps of the archives that often fail to preserve the fully lived and complicated accounts of lesbian relationships. As she crafts the details, this book is a humorous (and not so humorous) compilation of footnotes on motifs from folktales that apply to her life ... Overall, it is a tour de force that demonstrates the many tools that Carmen Maria Machado wields as a writer. This is a difficult book and a glorious one. The book begins with a piling up of epigraphs, page after page, keeping the reader from the official start of the story ... Even as the tone of each section resets for a new trope, there is also a strong underlying narrative that carries the reader throughout. Of course, because of the risks of this type of artistic variability, some of these section titles are more remarkable in how they are integrated into the style of the segment than others. When they work best, they add a force to the whole chapter ... Each rendering kept me rapt ... She nimbly uses language so that the full weight of the words creeps quietly upon you each time.
In the Dream House gleamingly smashes our notion of memoir, relocating Machado’s genre-bending mastery from fiction to nonfiction. As with her short story collection, an intoxicating mix of fabulism and horror, sci-fi and gutting realism, Machado’s playfulness on the page is intoxicating ... The book arranges itself into an accordion of pain and pleasure and fear, a card catalog of emotion and fact, certainty and doubt, as she adds flesh to a barely there skeleton ... Regardless of a reader’s orientation, it is impossible not to see yourself behind one of these hundreds of doors ... At first glance, this fragmentation looks willy-nilly, as if one could open the book to any page and read forward. But the overall effect is more that of a Pointillist painting, a snapped-together aha moment from afar ... At times, the dizzying opening and closing of doors to the different rooms in this book creates a fun house effect ... Ultimately, In the Dream House employs the kind of sci-fi time travel Machado is known for in her fiction; the other 'you' on the page has managed to reach back in time and resurrect herself.
Anyone who has relegated the genre of memoir to navel-gazing will be proven wrong here. Machado conscientiously delineates the stakes of telling her story that transcend her own healing. She makes an admirable, though necessarily incomplete, effort to wrap her words around an expanse of injustices—the undue burden placed on the already marginalized, the interrelations between sexism and homophobia and racism—and how these injuries compound and sprout new wounds. Her memoir is a moving addition to the history of intimate partner abuse and the public imagination.
... stunning ... To call it a memoir is to give short shrift to the exquisite strangeness and formal innovation that Machado achieves ... a clever device, but it’s also a propulsive one, and occasionally leavening ... If this all sounds very metatextual, know that Machado has pulled off an amazing feat: a book that comments on its own existence and the silences it endeavors to fill; a work deeply informed by a sense of identity and community; and page after page of flawless, flaying, addictive prose. In the Dream House is astonishingly good.
Each chapter of In the Dream House tries on a different way of seeing this relationship and recounting it, reflected in the book’s chapter titles: 'Dream House as Lesbian Pulp Novel,' 'Dream House as Stoner Comedy,' 'Dream House as Myth,' etc. Most of these takes can’t be sustained for more than a page or two; despite the grim subject matter, some land almost like jokes. But all of the chapters gesture toward Machado’s fundamental dilemma in writing the book: How can this story be told? ... Machado’s tale also serves to debunk the fable of utopian lesbianism, a story that has helped many people defy prejudice and familial disapproval ... Perhaps because she’s primarily a fiction writer, Machado doesn’t fall back on the memoirist’s bedrock defense: This is my truth, and everyone is entitled to tell the truth about her life as she understands it. Instead, she experiments with forms known for their irreality, especially fairy tales and folklore. Fairy tales offer a surprisingly good model for abuse memoirs because, like a fairy tale, the dynamic between abuser and victim seems to take place within a closed system, cut off from the outside world, where the usual rules don’t always apply ... In the Dream House would have benefited from a deeper delving into this conundrum; the relationship between the current Machado, a writer of great talent and authority, and this lost shard of a woman from her past who “was always anxious and vibrating like a too-small breed of dog” is the most fascinating aspect of the book ... this book...despite its superficially fragmented form, is held together like a string of beads by a single, unbroken narrative. It even ends in a fittingly fairy-tale twist I won’t spoil. This story may be too dark to be called a last laugh, but its power is undeniable nonetheless.
She approaches her memoir with...[an] interest in combining genres; in using all the tools in her kit, she provides a new blueprint for writing about queer abuse ... By opening the channels for a larger conversation about domestic abuse within queer relationships, there is a sense here that what Machado is striving for is a chance to live more honestly, authentically—even if that means airing out the uglier parts of her community. Instead of feeling disillusioned or constrained by the realization that queer people can enact the same harms on each other as people of other identities, Machado finds something else. What In the Dream House offers as a resource, as an expansion of a literary archive, is permission to unburden ourselves.
... a hauntingly beautiful memoir ... just as much a tale of warning as it is a catharsis ... Machado is able to effectively explain the difficulty in examining the toxicity of her relationship through an unbiased lens. How could she save herself when she didn’t even realize she needed saving? ... In The Dream House sheds light on the issue of queerness being associated with ambiguity and romanticized fantasy. Without the stories of queer writers, their existence is reduced to clichés formed by a perceivably straight society. In order to combat these widespread ideas, Machado examines her sexuality as another complexity of simply being human.
... deeply intelligent and fiercely innovative ... Machado’s richly layered narrative takes the form of a personal story embedded within an extensive cultural history ... Machado’s story is punctuated by harrowing moments of conflict that feel, because of their specificity, almost uncannily familiar. We come to inhabit her mind so wholly that the claustrophobia of her relationship with this other woman is made present first in the mind and then in the body like some foreign infiltrator, a cancer spreading quietly beneath the skin. The book’s hybrid nature is essential to its project, a marriage of form and content that elevates its subject by allowing it to accrue meaning in unconventional, surprising ways.
I didn’t revel in Machado’s story of abuse. I found hope in it, an understanding, a hand held out, and a soft smile that said It’s okay, I know this pain, too. There was a rush of validation, a terror of being seen on every page ... Machado is good at wringing humor out of places it shouldn’t belong ... Something in the cleaving of Machado, the way she talks directly to the 'you' of her past self, felt like the knife was digging right into me ... Our stories are not interchangeable, but Machado’s is one all queer people can find meaning and comfort from ... Machado is not just a beautiful writer, she’s a brilliant writer, and it’s easy to feel outmaneuvered as the pages slip through your fingers. Any time a bit of writing caught my breath, I dog-eared the page; I ended up with more pages with creased corners than not ... an act of bravery.
Machado is a magician at illuminating difficult topics with familiar examples ... There is a generous accessibility in this framing. The subjects Machado covers are so big, so heartbreaking, that the occasional reference to popular culture makes them comprehensible for readers who may never experience what she experienced. Being able to draw those comparisons isn't easy, but it's also essential ... the way it seamlessly weaves the facts of her life with fictions—the ghosts that still haunt her, the fact that even time travel could not undo what’s been done—is a masterstroke. Machado's that writer who can convincingly code-switch between sci-fi nerdery and lyrical realism. She's equally at home in both worlds ... proof that sometimes the most valuable stories genre writers have to tell are their own. Believe them.
... a complexly layered exploration of the personal and the political, and the literary, both a brave baring of a painful experience and a reckoning with our collective failure to truly deal with queer intimate partner abuse ... [Machado's] sensitivity to both the inter- and intragroup factors leading to the marginalization of abuse narratives and abuse victims are part of what makes In the Dream House compelling and timely ... Part of what makes In the Dream House so devastating at times is how well it captures the truly damaging nature of emotional and psychological abuse: it functions by making the victim doubt her own feelings, her own grasp on reality ... The intertwining of critical insight, personal narrative, and aesthetic innovation alone makes In the Dream House an incredible, exciting read from a talented author. But it’s not only that that makes the book an important one, and especially for the queer community ... begins to give a rich, vibrant language, a structure for understanding for that experience. And more than that: it made us feel seen.
Reading Machado’s extraordinary book one is caught in this ambiguity. The relationship that she describes is so familiar ... It is the expression of this breaking down in the form and structure of the book that makes it a tour de force ... Well now the silence is broken; it is shattered in this work into a multitude of ingenious retellings and understandings. Everything in the book is aware of its own perspective. This is challenging and thrilling ... In the Dream House is a dark jewel reflecting something startling – familiar and strange.
Pointing to the historic erasure of queer trauma, Machado slices a former romance into a series of vignettes that range from the idyllic to the erotic to the steadily chilling ... Beyond harrowing descriptions of emotional manipulation, written in the same visceral style that put Machado on the map as one of the most gripping literary voices of our time, Machado’s greatest grievance is with the social, legal, and political systems that authorize queer maltreatment through the erasure of Otherness ... Yet, despite the futility of correcting the archive, In the Dream House is a testament to hope ... As in her fiction, Machado deftly weaves horror into the everyday ... In the Dream House follows Machado making sense of and shedding her silence around her abuse, creating space for others to do the same. 'What is placed in or left out of the archive is a political act,” Machado writes. “I speak into the silence. I toss the stone of my story into a vast crevice; measure the emptiness by its small sound.' Undoubtedly, Machado’s memoir will inspire more stones, compiling an archive of lost stories and giving voice to those whose histories have been dubbed impossible.
Machado blasts her own experience with an abusive intimate partner into a sparking arc of story bits ... a fresh and unflinching interrogation of abuse in queer relationships ... Given the limited histories available, Machado’s hyperstoried memoir aims to fill in—even overstuff—this blank ... This book’s impact will be more emphatic, considerably, than a plink. In the Dream House arrives with a thunder that resounds.
With In the Dream House, Carmen Maria Machado has realized the potential of an [oulipian] exercise...building the book’s skeleton from it and then breathing life—which is to say a trajectory—into it ... Machado deliberately uses each titular trope, genre or device to bring forth a different scene or layer of exposition ... she expertly demonstrates the ways in which available forms can bring a story into being, both on the page and in the world ... With her tropes and clichés, her genres and styles, Machado piles up these strings like so many necklaces, crystallizing her own experience and spinning new threads around which others might crystallize their own.
If there are no new stories, only new ways to tell them, Carmen Maria Machado has found a way to do exactly that, ingeniously ... a book that manages to break open nearly everything we think we know about abuse memoirs ... a gorgeously kaleidoscopic feat — not just of literature but of pure, uncut humanity.
The only way to effectively process Carmen Maria Machado's masterful, harrowing, beautifully controlled memoir, In the Dream House, is to understand that this is one of the more ambitious, audacious, and successful experimental accounts of a journey from a house of horrors ... Like most villains, the woman in the Dream House (as Machado names her girlfriend) offers her evil in equally measured, small doses. It is powerful how Machado writes her way out of that life ... [a] remarkably smooth account of trauma absorbed and processed ... Machado effectively chooses pop culture references to reflect on ideas of domestic abuse ... Much of what makes this a revelatory text comes through when Machado writes conclusively of domestic abuse in her community ... Machado mixes her seamless experimentation with form into political commentary and pop culture reflections to create a narrative that wouldn't have worked in less assured hands ... Machado captured our attention and earned our commitment from the first page and she never loses it. The beauty here is that she doesn't keep us at a stranglehold. She allows us to breathe through the lines. This is not a dense, impenetrable narrative. Even through the horror, there's the power of wisdom ... It's highly unlikely a stronger survivor's memoir will publish in 2019. The remarkable truths within these pages will transcend categories and make for a harrowing, unforgettable reading experience.
As a survivor, Machado knows how terrifying it is to be in an abusive relationship. How crazymaking. How it destroys one's self-esteem, even one's sense of reality. She describes the descent into relationship hell vividly, all her skills as a fiction writer employed to make this work of memoir enthralling from a storytelling point of view ... Machado's innovative memoir does not pull punches. She attacks stereotypes as well as societal stigmas that would keep her from telling her story. She agonizes about her own sense of failure. She opens her heart onto the page and does not try to hide the missed opportunities, mixed signals, confusion, lust, and all the messiness that can occur in any relationship and in particular one with a troubled but charismatic partner ... Machado's innovative memoir does not pull punches. She attacks stereotypes as well as societal stigmas that would keep her from telling her story. She agonizes about her own sense of failure. She opens her heart onto the page and does not try to hide the missed opportunities, mixed signals, confusion, lust, and all the messiness that can occur in any relationship and in particular one with a troubled but charismatic partner.
Machado’s strategy disorients the reader, but that feels like an intentional choice. After all, a person always feels disoriented within their own biography: Nothing quite makes sufficient narrative sense at the time it is happening, but the fragments layer upon one another to form the story of a life ... By blending her own critiques with memories of terrible mistakes in love, Machado shows how ill-suited literary scholarship is to the task of seeing one’s own predicament clearly ... There are hundreds of ways to be haunted, In the Dream House shows, but not all of them have been written: Via a delicate polyphony of storytelling and criticism, Machado lays out how the literary tradition of domestic abuse has both expressed and muffled the experiences of women in danger in their own homes ... By taking a gothic idea and exploding it outward through different modes of interpretation, Machado transforms the 'holes' in the archive. They are no longer absences, but spaces for the queer, abused woman to reckon with her memory to its fullest extent. In doing so, Machado also expands the narrative of victimhood, and opens up a new door in the house: It leads to self-knowledge, and escape.
...[a] gripping, unconventional deconstruction of a past, emotionally
abusive queer relationship. ... Since her 2017 debut...Machado has been lauded for her ability to bend genre, for the way she writes just speculatively enough to entertain, yet keep you looking over your shoulder to check that the door is locked. In In the Dream House, she takes genre further: she upends it, she queers it, she breaks it open and puts it back together again. She defines it for herself. She rejects the conventions of memoir ... the ex-girlfriend’s volatility thrums in the background, a steady pulse of power and control, and you are there with Machado, both victim and witness ... I weep because it seems absurd that no one has written about abuse in queer relationships like this before. Mercifully, In the Dream House fills an aching void.
... a messy, ferocious thing. Brilliant and devastating, incisive and defiant, it is at once an intensely personal evocation of a queer woman’s domestic emotional abuse, and the gestation of an archive investigating the conspicuous absence of research and narrative documenting queer women’s domestic abuse throughout history ... Anyone who has read her magnificent debut short story collection, Her Body and Other Parties, knows that Machado is a master of form and style, manipulating them to get at the heart of each work ... The pieces work incredibly effectively: guiding the reader into the fantasy of her relationship, through the creeping, emerging horror of it, the gaslit, frantic terror and depression ... The material is so dark it nearly feels wrong to call it pleasurable to read, but it is, because Machado is that good, because each vignette packs such an intense punch both by itself and as part of this carefully curated narrative ... incisive and vulnerable, mesmeric and haunting ... unsettling because it should be. It’s vindicating even though it shouldn’t have to be. Harrowing and incandescent, it might resist being called a triumph, but it reads like one. It will burrow in, sit with the reader and shift you from within. I am profoundly grateful for this book and everything Machado has written.
[Machado]...both summons the past and reanimates her former self; she bends genre to her will, excavates meaning from chaos. She reconstructs the limits of form and narrative and structure, delivering a spectacular literary performance ... Machado wields language like a weapon then applies it like a salve. Her craftsmanship is especially evident in the structure of the book, which is styled as a series of vignettes, each playing with form and centered around a specific genre or trope ... But this isn’t about showing off Machado’s ability to deftly vault between genres (though she certainly can). Every new incarnation of the Dream House gives us a new line of sight, another perspective through which we can construct reality. Machado dissects the complexities of abuse, love, sex, and violence, all through a distinctly queer lens ... In the Dream House is no mere confessional: Machado also widens her aperture to analyze our larger culture ... Spending time with Machado inside the Dream House can feel uncomfortable, even claustrophobic—this is by design. It’s on us to linger in that discomfort, to feel—even just temporarily—as trapped and forsaken as Machado has ... Reading her memoir could in a sense destroy you, but it will reconstruct you, too, leaving you better than before you found it.
A memoir utterly unlike most ... excruciatingly honest and yet vibrantly creative ... Machado draws us into an intricately crafted web of emotion, betrayal, sensuality and revelation ... But perhaps the most striking and disconcerting aspect of Machado’s story of her life is that it’s written in the second person. Revealing herself in searing honesty, she is utterly vulnerable in the prose she creates, and yet, because that second person prose addresses her reader directly, we are utterly immersed in her world, so much so that her world becomes ours ... There is bravery in [Machado's] endeavour, in honestly questioning how much an intimate, romantic and traumatic story can be told; how she herself can be trusted to tell a tale that has been told so many times before but that changes with every retelling ... rich and detailed but this reader longed for more insight into the connection between the Machado speaking this retelling and the younger, besotted, enchanted girl to whom she is speaking ... Innovative and haunting, compelling and jarring, Machado has created what is essentially a new form of memoir, a creative non-fiction story of her own life, her own thoughts, and her own nightmares.
The writing exhibits all of the formal precision of [Machado's] fiction, and the book draws the reader deep into the varied rooms of the haunted house of the past. Highly recommended to fans of Machado’s fiction and to anyone interested in LGBTQ memoir, domestic abuse, or chilling and precise examinations of human relationships at their worst.
... haunts the grey areas of abuse...shatters the memoir form...like a dream it shapeshifts. It’s literature as gaslighting. It ensnares and unsettles, tantalises and wrongfoots ... What makes Machado’s memoir so distinctive is not just its inventiveness but its unflinching honesty – about the indignities of abuse, about the vulnerability of growing up feeling fat and therefore feeling 'grateful for anything you can get” and also about bodily desires' ... For all the horror, In the Dream House is a ravishingly beautiful book, a tender, incandescent memoir like no other. There’s no doubt that Machado is one of the brightest literary talents around.
Much like in her fiction, Machado’s prose in her memoir shows an unflinching willingness to stretch the usual conventions of literary technique. It makes for a dynamic read ... With academic precision, Machado describes how a love life can go from idyllic to alarming to terrifying ... the author is courageous in her vulnerability ... Machado is an author who writes the truth of her experiences. Her understanding of the events of that ill-fated relationship aren’t up for debate.
Machado’s frequent use of second-person narration is especially harrowing, placing readers inside the Dream House as she recounts the events surrounding her relationship. In this open examination of abuse—how it starts, how it hides, how it tears at the victim’s sense of self—Machado reimagines and plays with the memoir form, bridging the gap between reader and author in a way that is original and haunting ... A thought-provoking account for anyone interested in the experience of abuse survivors and lesbian narratives; trigger warning for descriptions of physical and emotional abuse.
... while Machado is fluent in many genres, her native tongue is the fairy tale, and specifically the dark and bloody Angela Carter kind. So throughout In the Dream House, no matter what narrative trope or genre is framing the chapter at hand, she uses footnotes to mark off fairy tale motifs as they occur ... Fairy tales are in many ways about the making and breaking of taboos...and their stringent yet arbitrary lists of rules make them a perfect metaphor for talking through an abusive relationship ... Machado’s telling of this particular story is anything but common: It’s compassionate and thoughtful and achingly honest. Most of all, In the Dream House is a generous book. It is generous to all the readers of the future who might find themselves in the Dream House as Machado did. And so that they don’t have to make up their own language to make sense of what is happening to them, it offers itself up, bare and vulnerable.
This fragmentary approach takes some getting used to. It isn’t clear at times how long or sustained Machado’s ordeal was. (Most of the events circle around 2011 and early 2012.) And though the busted narrative format shows how deftly Machado can work in a variety of styles and formats, it but can also feel tonally wayward – the mood can leap from agony to irony in a matter of sentences ... But if you can recognize that as part of Machado’s point – that abuse disconnects you from yourself and the 'right' way to tell a story – In the Dream House makes for uneasy but powerful reading.
These fantastical and fantastically adjacent moments feel both familiar and unfamiliar. They include very specific descriptions of place and time, creating an emotional resonance that most of us will be able to recognize, while also creating a sense of disjunction—when what we tend to call realism collides with what we tend to call fantasy, as a woman’s emotions quite literally change the physical reality in the book ... In the end, that’s how Machado’s memoir feels: an assertion of power through a claiming of story.
This book may be a memoir, but it could also be classified as a psychological thriller, one based on true events. I found myself taking breaks in between selected chapters, angry at the woman from the dream house and unsettled by the scenes Machado went through. Forget going to a haunted house this fall, when you can enter a memoir written in second person. The good news is, there is an exit door.
...there has been so little language ascribed to romantic abuse in queer relationships. She navigates this often ignored dynamic by re-configuring the memoir form—and her understanding of her own past—so that it adheres to an architecture more accurately attuned to her lived experience ... In The Dream House finds Machado inventing new formal tricks in service to her past self—the memoir’s 'you'—and creates a narrative structure that allows her to connect her past and present ... It’s through these types of experiments that Machado is able to play with a diversity of literary forms, and interrogate her experience through a variety of approaches. Instead of rejecting the categorical labels of genre, Machado embraces them—all of them ... The sections feel scrambled in their arrangement, as if anything could come next; yet the memoir as a whole comes together in a way that tracks intuitively and emotionally ... The memoir’s critical and memoiristic segments rely on one another to draw out the narrative as a whole, which they are able to do not despite their different shapes but because of them. Navigating their arrangement feels frantic and grasping, and the story emerges through its own inability to settle or sit still ... The writing feels most tender when Machado addresses her past self in the second person in the sections that follow ... As a reader, I was seduced by what I initially thought was the musicality of these parts, the percussive you / you / you like a bass drum, which had the impact of a hypnosis instructional guiding me through Machado’s waking life dream. But as I read on I realized that the technique allowed me to reverberate alongside the text and its writer in a rare way ... For me, the relief in witnessing these relivings comes from a writer finally giving something amorphous—the impacts of gaslighting and abuse—a shape. In writing In The Dream House, Machado has confirmed a huge something for a lot for people who, like her, might doubt that abuse ever occurred in the first place.
In this daringly structured and ruthlessly inquisitive memoir, Machado...examines an abusive relationship with an eye to both personal truth and cultural assumption ... The relationship at the heart of this memoir is resurrected with visceral potency. Instead of tracing her past with linear continuity, the author fractures it, diving into beautifully or painfully remembered moments with a harrowing emotional logic ... Machado uses slippery changes in point of view and a knack for translating emotion into concrete sensation to slide readers into her space, where they experience the fear and confusion of abuse from the inside. She applies the astonishing force of her imagination and narrative skill to her own life, framing chapters with storytelling motifs (unreliable narrator, star-crossed lovers, choose-your-own-adventure) and playful footnotes. Occasionally, the various parts muddle each other’s trajectories, but the heart of this history is clear, deeply felt, and powerful. A fiercely honest, imaginatively written, and necessary memoir from one of our great young writers.
...haunting ... [Machado] masterfully, slowly introduces unease and dread as the relationship unfolds ... Machado interestingly weaves in cultural references (to movies like 1944’s Gaslight and 1984’s Carmen) as she considers portrayals of abuse ... The author eventually leaves her toxic relationship behind, but scars remain. Machado has written an affecting, chilling memoir about domestic abuse.