Carmen Maria Machado has a gift with words. In this memoir, she details, fairly explicitly, her relationship with an abusive ex. The journey that you are taken on is one filled with horror, gas lighting, violence, and, above all, truth. Pieces of other peoples’ real life experiences with domestic violence, specifically those also in same sex couples, with an additional focus on the lack of laws pertaining to emotional and psychological abuse.
This read is intense, packed into a small package, Machado goes through as many moments as she can recall that detail all the ways her ex controlled her, her environment, her life, and her future. It’s told in vignettes, the title of the chapter setting the scene for the next few sentences or paragraphs. It’s not told in chronological order, and not all chapters are exactly about her experience, but each chapter is purposeful and builds the tension.
The writing is so good it’s scary. I found myself in a trance listening to her speak her own story (the audiobook is available on Scribd in case your library doesn’t have access to it). It’s 247 pages, a five hour audiobook, and it’ll suck you in. You stay because the writing is so captivating. You stay because the story sounds so familiar, similar to one you know or you’ve experienced. You stay because you understand that there is more going on than just someone sharing a story, you stay because you know that it is speaking to a bigger problem, a bigger flaw in our society.
It’s a tough read, but one I definitely recommend if you’re able and willing to go through it. I think it will sit with you for a long time, and maybe it will help you or allow you to help someone else if they ever find themselves in a situation like Machado’s, like so many others.
If you need help, please reach out. Here’s a link to the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.