In the Dream House is unlike any memoir I have ever read. Written in nonlinear prose and told from second person, Carmen Maria Machado holds nothing back as she digs into her past toxic and abusive relationship with her girlfriend. Abuse in same sex relationships is often overlooked and what comes to mind when one thinks of domestic abuse, is usually a man physically abusing his wife. But the truth is, abuse is nuanced and comes in all shapes and forms. Abuse affects all types of relationships. Machado delves into the deep pain and psychological torture she endured from this emotionally abusive relationship, but does in a way that is completely unique and one of a kind. Filled with folklore and horror tropes, Machado tells her story in a way only she can.
It is apparent that Machado drafted her memoir in second person so that she can talk to the woman she was while in the abusive relationship. Hindsight is always 20/20 and now that she is in a healthy and loving relationship, she can reflect back and see with glaring obvious the abuse she endured. Machado refers to her ex-girlfriend as "the woman in the dream house" often throughout the text. Her almost mystical fairytale way of writing was not something I come across often, but once you get to know Machado and her story, it makes so much sense. When experiencing abuse, frequently the victim of the abuse disassociates because that is the only way they can go on living each day. Referring to her abuser as "the woman in the dream house" is a way of showing this disassociation and how living in abuse can feel like you are in a fog or a dream.
This text can be delved into and dissected in so many ways. The overall messaging is that abuse takes place in all kinds of relationships and it doesn't always look like the battered wife with the black eye. One chapter is one sentence that blatantly states, "most types of domestic abuse are completely legal." I was shook when I read that line and cannot stop thinking about it. How incredible true and gut wrenching is that statement? I resonated so much with her in the way that emotional abuse is elusive and shows no scars, making you almost wish you had a sign of physical abuse to prove to others (and yourself) that it is real.
If you are looking for a powerful memoir about domestic abuse, one written by an LGBTQ+ author, look no more than In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado. An easy 4.5 star read for me and one of those books that becomes better and better the more I think about it.