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Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Mostly Dead Things (2019)

by Kristen Arnett

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1457127,438 (3.56)10
Taking over her family's failing taxidermy shop in the wake of her father's suicide, grief-stricken Jessa-Lynn Morton pursues less-than-legal ways of generating income while struggling to figure out her place among her eccentric loved ones.



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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This is another 'weird' Indiespensable volume - queer and messed up. Eventually, like rot and humidity, it grew on me. This book is sticky and gross like Florida. I didn't really identify with Jessa, but she reminded me of some folks I know, and of spending 13 + months around Orlando in the 90s. ( )
  kcshankd | Sep 22, 2019 |
Fast and entertaining but do not read while eating. It could have been shorter and had more impact, some repetitiveness diluted it somewhat. ( )
  viviennestrauss | Sep 9, 2019 |
"'It's a good thing when you can't stop thinking about a piece,' she said. 'That's when you know it's done the work. When you can't get it out of your head afterward.'"

I think this is what Arnett was hoping to achieve with her edgy, dark, and oddly humorous novel. Our narrator, Jessa, is the daughter of a taxidermist in central Florida. More aligned with his passions than her brother Milo, she is the heir apparent to the taxidermy business but, it turns out, also to the sense of responsibility for the family after her father dies by suicide and leaves her a burdening note. (No spoilers here; these details are the introductory foundation on which the novel is built.) As Jessa's relationships with her mother, brother, and beloved Brynn unfold, we are taken into the dark spaces of a soul determined not to feel, not to be vulnerable, not to be exposed. Of course, being human precludes all of those refusals and Jessa's transformation is compelling. Getting there is at times a difficult ride. The details of the taxidermy as well as Jessa's persistent angst make this novel the anti-cosy. Like, really. Get ready for some painful passages. But also be prepared for some delightfully funny scenes which transcend the angst and highlight the ability of humans to experience pleasure even when the world around them is totally insane.

Other than the alligators, water moccasins, and palmetto shrubs, this is not exactly the central Florida in which I grew up. But Arnett's descriptions of roadways, woods, and late night lakes took me back and made me smile. ( )
  EBT1002 | Aug 3, 2019 |
I saw this at an indie bookstore a couple weeks ago and thought it sounded hilarious, based on the jacket blurb. It wasn't hilarious. It was barely even remotely humorous in occasional wisps. Mostly, it was boring, repetitive, and dismal. A friend forewarned; but, I was determined to have a better experience (sometimes we agree on a book; sometimes one of us likes it much more than the other). Not this time, sadly. ( )
1 vote joyblue | Jul 5, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
...it's darkly funny, both macabre and irreverent, and its narrator is so real that every time I stopped reading the book, I felt a tiny pull at the back of my mind, as if I'd left a good friend in the middle of a conversation.
Arnett, who is based in Orlando and the author of the 2017 collection “Felt in the Jaw,” gets many things right in this first novel: the feeling of being trapped and vulnerable within one’s own family; the frustration of trying to look to the future when the past has “its teeth dug into you like a rabid animal”; how “love makes you an open wound, susceptible to infection”; and the manifold risks of swimming in a warm Florida lake, where if an alligator doesn’t get you, a brain-eating amoeba might.
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Problem solving is hunting.
It is savage pleasure and we are born to it.
—Thomas Harris

Happiness is a large gut pile.
—T-shirt proverb
for michael michael motorcycle
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Carefully, that’s a given.
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