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Machine Dreams

Thoughts on Machine Dreams by Jayne Anne Phillips

  • As with Out of Peel Tree, the fragmented stories are hard to get into, but cover a lot more ground in time and setting.
  • The use of letters for Mitch’s war memories do a nice job of characterizing him and his relationships with others through the use of small details.
  • I was confused by the name in the first chapter’s title. I thought the daughter was named Jean, not the wife, who was speaking.
  • The book has a heavy, dark feeling. There is lots of trouble. Almost everything that could be wrong is. (Alcoholic men, trauma from war, cancer, secret abortions, a teenager trying to drown his girlfriend because he learns she is pregnant, death, memories of serial murders, debt, an invalid child, massive age gaps between spouses, farms taken over and strip-mined, abandonment by parents, an immigrant with leprosy exiled to the woods…) All of this dark content makes the book harder to read.
  • Phillips does use specific details such as the names of cars, lyrics from music, and details about the VFW club.

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