Mostly Dead Things
One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into the family taxidermy shop to find that her father has committed suicide, right there on one of the metal tables. Shocked and grieving, Jessa steps up to manage the failing business, while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the shop to make aggressively lewd art with the taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother’s art escalates—picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose—and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.

Mostly Dead Things Details

TitleMostly Dead Things
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJun 4th, 2019
PublisherTin House Books
ISBN-139781947793309
Rating
GenreFiction, LGBT, Contemporary, Novels

Mostly Dead Things Review

  • Christopher Alonso
    January 1, 1970
    This is one of the strangest books I've ever read, and it was fantastic. Florida can be weird, and Kristen Arnett was like, "No, you THOUGHT Florida was weird," and created a wacky, gut-punching gem of a book. It's a reminder that families are always changing, families can be flawed, and that learning to be vulnerable is such a huge act in itself. Plus, this book is very gay.
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  • Meg Gee
    January 1, 1970
    Phenomenal. Queer Ladies + Taxidermy + Complex Familial Relationships + A Small Town = a meteor to the gut. Read it, k bye.
  • Julia
    January 1, 1970
    This fucked me up spectacularly. I was simultaneously on the verge of tears, nauseated, and couldn’t put it down. What a great novel. Jesus.
  • Drew
    January 1, 1970
    A brilliant debut novel, funny and heart-wrenching and weird. I now also know way more about taxidermy than I'd ever thought I'd know.
  • Ilana
    January 1, 1970
    Holy shit. I only got to write one review of this which will be going up on NPR, and so I only got to write about a 10th of what I'd like to write about this book. It's everything I was hoping for and more, and it is so satisfying, and so wondrously human, and so incredibly full of queer yearning, and I love it so much.
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  • Coreena McBurnie
    January 1, 1970
    This is a book that, after reading the blurb, I really wanted to love; however, I didn’t. It was fine. It was funny at times. It was strange. I’m good with strange, but there was something about this book that just didn’t resonate with me.Partly, I think, I just didn’t love the main character, Jessa, until nearly the end of the book. I found her character tedious at times and I just wanted to shake her. I couldn’t get into the strange relationship that both her and her brother had with Brynn. I This is a book that, after reading the blurb, I really wanted to love; however, I didn’t. It was fine. It was funny at times. It was strange. I’m good with strange, but there was something about this book that just didn’t resonate with me.Partly, I think, I just didn’t love the main character, Jessa, until nearly the end of the book. I found her character tedious at times and I just wanted to shake her. I couldn’t get into the strange relationship that both her and her brother had with Brynn. I also didn’t like how Milo, her brother, was basically a non-existent parent. That didn’t sit well at all. It had been something like 14 years since Brynn left and still Jessa and Milo couldn’t get themselves together.The book also dragged, especially in the middle, but it did pick up at the end. Maybe this book is more of an exploration of an idea than a strong story.I did love Jessa’s mother, though. She was fantastic. I loved how she rearranged the taxidermied animals in “artistic” ways and how she used her art to come to terms with her life and marriage. She was the only one with any life in her, and maybe that was the point.Other people seem to love this book, however, so maybe it is more of a case of this book just not being for me.Thank you to Netgalley and Tin House Books for a review copy.
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  • Miriam Vance
    January 1, 1970
    Mostly Dead Things is both hilarious and morbid. Arnett paints a vivid picture of life in Florida and familial dysfunction.
  • Celine
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book, so so much. I constantly found myself slowing down my pace, trying to absorb every word, especially as I knew it was about to end. This is a story that starts with a suicide and as such, is a study of grief. But it's also the story of Jessa and Milo, two siblings that loved the same woman and how it's impacted their ability to love those currently around them. I loved Jessa like an old friend. Loved watching her dig through her life's narrative to reveal the best and worst par I loved this book, so so much. I constantly found myself slowing down my pace, trying to absorb every word, especially as I knew it was about to end. This is a story that starts with a suicide and as such, is a study of grief. But it's also the story of Jessa and Milo, two siblings that loved the same woman and how it's impacted their ability to love those currently around them. I loved Jessa like an old friend. Loved watching her dig through her life's narrative to reveal the best and worst parts of herself to us. Loved how vulnerable she became. How resilient she seems. She's a fictional character, of course, but this book made me want to try and find her so we could be friends. This is a book you unquestionably must read. It's weird and gritty and honest and tender and I feel a little bruised after reading it.
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  • Abby
    January 1, 1970
    This book was visceral, weird, raw, and I could not put it down. The story begins with Jessa, Milo, and their father peeling the hide back from a dead deer carcass in an attempt to expose the last fleeting moments of a creature -- a metaphor that will endure throughout the entirety of the novel. When Jessa's father kills himself, she is forced to literally clean up the mess and 'peel back the hide' on her family to better understand both them and herself. Mostly Dead Things is a novel of grief, This book was visceral, weird, raw, and I could not put it down. The story begins with Jessa, Milo, and their father peeling the hide back from a dead deer carcass in an attempt to expose the last fleeting moments of a creature -- a metaphor that will endure throughout the entirety of the novel. When Jessa's father kills himself, she is forced to literally clean up the mess and 'peel back the hide' on her family to better understand both them and herself. Mostly Dead Things is a novel of grief, overcoming, and acceptance. I loved Jessa, she was strong, resilient, and honest about both her faults and strengths. Also, I felt at home in the Florida setting -- being from East Texas, I was wholly in tune with the swampy, mosquito-infested vibe. ** ARC from publisher
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  • Alex
    January 1, 1970
    This is a deeply grounded and human book. Grounded in people, humanity, place, mistakes, bodies. I keep seeing “strange” and “weird” and this book is that but it is much more about real mistakes and real reckonings and honestly, how a trade or daily practice can settle and sustain and mask and give order to a life. I loved this book. Thought of You Can Count on Me. Felt extremely good to read a hyped book and find it so full of humans, mistakes, specificity. To explain the plot to someone would This is a deeply grounded and human book. Grounded in people, humanity, place, mistakes, bodies. I keep seeing “strange” and “weird” and this book is that but it is much more about real mistakes and real reckonings and honestly, how a trade or daily practice can settle and sustain and mask and give order to a life. I loved this book. Thought of You Can Count on Me. Felt extremely good to read a hyped book and find it so full of humans, mistakes, specificity. To explain the plot to someone would make this book sound insane, but sentence to sentence it reads real, believable, yes, full of true capital C characters, but also quotidian in the best way. Read it.
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  • Afton Montgomery
    January 1, 1970
    Mostly Dead Things is erotic, it's gutting; it's heartbreaking, grotesque, and transparent. Kristen Arnett created a character in Jessa-Lynn that was painfully easy to relate to: one who pushes away tenderness in the wake of tragedy, one who defines her queerness by her ability to embody the mask of masculinity that she learned from her father, and one who can't tell the difference between obsession and love and care. I absolutely could not put this book down-- I was so invested in the road kill Mostly Dead Things is erotic, it's gutting; it's heartbreaking, grotesque, and transparent. Kristen Arnett created a character in Jessa-Lynn that was painfully easy to relate to: one who pushes away tenderness in the wake of tragedy, one who defines her queerness by her ability to embody the mask of masculinity that she learned from her father, and one who can't tell the difference between obsession and love and care. I absolutely could not put this book down-- I was so invested in the road kill and art of taxidermy and sticky Florida skin. I can't wait to recommend it, especially to all of the queer women in my life. What a pleasure to finally see characters that look like us on the page!
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  • Borce
    January 1, 1970
    Received this arc from my local bookstore. After reading some reviews I was very excited to read this “strange” & “funny” book. I’m sorry to say I was greatly let down. The only, slightly strange aspect of the book is that it revolves around taxidermy, which in it of itself isn’t that strange. As far as reality based books go the strangeness level was set to 1. The characters were all so self loathing it was hard to care about any of them or what they were going through. Half the chapters ar Received this arc from my local bookstore. After reading some reviews I was very excited to read this “strange” & “funny” book. I’m sorry to say I was greatly let down. The only, slightly strange aspect of the book is that it revolves around taxidermy, which in it of itself isn’t that strange. As far as reality based books go the strangeness level was set to 1. The characters were all so self loathing it was hard to care about any of them or what they were going through. Half the chapters are memories and were meaningless and boring. The other half told the current story, which wasn’t much more exciting. Also, midway through the book they just start murdering animals just to stuff them, which is awful and a really pointless plot point. Hard pass on this one.
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  • Madeline
    January 1, 1970
    I met Kristen Arnett last night and it was magical, much like this book. I literally just finished reading it, so my mind is a big gumbo of emotions right now. I guess I'll try to review this later? I don't even know what I can say that will do it any justice. I'm going to be thinking about this book for a long, long time.
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  • Lindsey
    January 1, 1970
    A lot will (rightly) be said about how weird and queer and visceral this book is, but really what I can't stop thinking about is how many ways Arnett asks "What animates us?" Characters are paralyzed by the ways their loved ones construct their lives. They test the boundaries of when and how they should replicate those forms. This book and its characters are carefully built, and I'll be turning these initial thoughts over in my mind for a good while yet.
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  • Shelly Shore
    January 1, 1970
    There are books that you read, and there are books that you sense, vivid and visceral, getting into your every pore. You watch the story unfold, and humidity sticks the hair to the back of your neck, and the taste of cold coffee coats your tongue, and your nose fills with the smells of stagnant water and old garbage and stale sweat. Stories you feel like a bruise, that cling to your skin long after you finish the plot, like the memory of the lip gloss of the first girl you ever kissed.Mostly Dea There are books that you read, and there are books that you sense, vivid and visceral, getting into your every pore. You watch the story unfold, and humidity sticks the hair to the back of your neck, and the taste of cold coffee coats your tongue, and your nose fills with the smells of stagnant water and old garbage and stale sweat. Stories you feel like a bruise, that cling to your skin long after you finish the plot, like the memory of the lip gloss of the first girl you ever kissed.Mostly Dead Things is a book like that. Kristen Arnett’s debut novel opens with an animal autopsy as a way of introducing a suicide, and only gets darker and weirder from there. It focuses on the Morton family taxidermy shop through the eyes of daughter Jessa-Lynn, the heir to her late father’s business and talent. In the wake of her father’s sudden suicide, Jessa tries to take on the role he left behind, managing the business and stepping up to support what’s left of her family, which is falling apart at the seams. Her mother channels her grief into hypersexualized art using the shop’s taxidermied animals. Her brother Milo drifts, showing up only occasionally for Jessa, their mother, and his children. Milo’s daughter Lolee and stepson Bastien run rampant, wild and flirting with danger in the way that only young people in pain can be. Loss hangs through the entire book, as thick and permeating as the Florida humidity that Arnett describes with the loving familiarity of a local. There’s the loss of the Morton patriarch, yes, but just as cutting is the absence of Brynn, Milo’s wife and Jessa’s best friend--and what? Lover is too simple a word--and Lolee and Bastien’s mother, who walked out on the family years before. As the story unfolds, the threads of Brynn’s loss and Prentice’s weave together, and we see how interconnected pain can be. One of the most incredible aspects of this novel was how very brilliantly it portrayed the ways we can appear to function while we simultaneously fall apart. Arnett doesn’t gloss over how very unpretty this process of self-destruction can be. She doesn’t write HBO-style depression, slim and manicured and sexy: this is room-temperature beer drunk at three in the afternoon and eight in the morning, too-strong coffee with the grounds stuck in your teeth, flies buzzing around the trash built up in your kitchen, the smell of rotten fruit and spoiled takeout in your fridge. Depression is never named, but Jessa’s stagnant lack of care for her body, her home, anything but getting through her day and keeping her business afloat is so vivid and visceral it nearly jumps off the page.Mostly Dead Things has been called “a love letter to Florida” and “an eccentric look at loss and love,” and it’s both, in so many ways. It’s sexual and intimate, sensual but not sexy--the sex scenes are sticky and wet, tinged with the strawberry lip gloss of first kisses and prickling anxiety of breathing in the expensive perfume of a woman you know is out of your league, and there is never a sense of titillation. The queerness of the book simply is, infused into the text right there with the grief and the heat and the beer and the trips to 7/11 for bottomless coffee.This book made me laugh, made me cringe, made me wince, made me sweat, made me cry. It made my heart ache, and made me feel deeply seen in a way that I haven’t in a long, long time. Jessa’s experience is a million miles from mine, but I felt close to her, and when the story ended, I almost felt like I was losing a friend. And to my total surprise, despite the strange, dark humor that permeated every inch of the story (and I could write a whole other blog post on just the humor, god, this book is so grossly funny in all the worst ways, it’s delightful), I ended it feeling…optimistic. Like things might somehow work out.Mostly Dead Things left me feeling bruised, exhausted, shockingly hopeful, and absolutely immersed in cravings for beer, grease, and a trip to somewhere swampy and warm. It’s a 2019 must-read.
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  • Joanna
    January 1, 1970
    “Her skin was pasty and damp from the alcohol she was still sweating off. She smelled like her fruity perfume and the very strong odor of her body, which curdled the edges of my heart. Everything inside me cooked at a low boil.”“Mostly Dead Things” is a story about a family that doesn’t talk about their issues, and they have a lot of issues. We’re introduced to the Mortons through Jessa-Lynn, our narrator, a worn-down but stubborn woman living life from beer can to beer can in Central Florida, s “Her skin was pasty and damp from the alcohol she was still sweating off. She smelled like her fruity perfume and the very strong odor of her body, which curdled the edges of my heart. Everything inside me cooked at a low boil.”“Mostly Dead Things” is a story about a family that doesn’t talk about their issues, and they have a lot of issues. We’re introduced to the Mortons through Jessa-Lynn, our narrator, a worn-down but stubborn woman living life from beer can to beer can in Central Florida, spending her days working in the taxidermist shop that she’s inherited from her father. Along with her we have her mother, who’s finally finding an outlet for her artistic interests after a long stifling time without them (they involve taxidermied animals and sex toys), her brother Milo, who’s sensitive and lacking any sort of work ethic, her niece Lolee, and her nephew Bastien. Jessa is a tough woman, emotionally distant in an effort to keep herself and her family chugging forwards in the wake of two tragedies that she wants to, mostly, ignore. One, that their father shot himself recently, leaving Jessa to discover his body. Two, that whirlwind Brynn – a childhood friend who became Milo’s wife and Jessa’s lover, simultaneously – abandoned the family, leaving Milo and Jessa with no explanation and her two children to raise. That effort to move stubbornly forwards against a weighty past is largely what the book is concerned with. Yes, it's a book about a hollowed out woman with a taxidermy business attempting to maintain some semblance of normal life. You can imagine the metaphors. There are some books that I end up racing through because I love them so much and can’t put them down, and reaching the end is bittersweet. And then there are some that I end up racing through because I can’t abandon the book but I’m not enjoying the book, and I need to be free of it. This one fell more in the latter category for me. It's not a happy read - which, okay, I get it, it's called "Mostly Dead Things." But it's easy to be fooled, and not just by the bright and beautiful cover, but the many, many blurbs and reviews that point to the book as "hilarious." This, I don't get. There's a wryness to the tone, and you get the sense that Jessa probably has a toughened, black sense of humor, the kind you have to develop because the alternative is to just keel over and let life have its way with you. But it wasn't a funny or hilarious book to me. It was a grimy, sucking read, the kind of book that gets something dark under your fingernails and leaves your skin feeling sticky and in need of a shower. A large part of that feeling is the setting. Central Florida shines in this book - the author clearly not only knows her subject, but how to immerse someone in it. Descriptions of choking humidity, sun-cooked pavement, chunks of drooping spanish moss, and warm algae filled lakes flood this novel. The descriptions are evocative, no doubt. Which is also good, because it's a very introspective, slice-of-life novel. If Jessa's world and the people in it weren't rendered in such a vivid way there wouldn't be as much here.I would really give this 3.5 or 3.7 stars. By the end it had started to wear me down a little, especially with the format - each chapter starts with a flashback to a time in Jessa's past, mostly her youth. There's also a shift around the climax that I... did not entirely understand? But it does position the book to end in a satisfying way, and after sweating through a whole lot of this woman's slow, loveless self-sabotage I wasn't going to rue the book too much for it.
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  • Evelyn
    January 1, 1970
    We were collectors, dismantlers, and artisans. We piece together life from the remnants of death. This is a visceral, gritty love letter to Florida in the same grisly, macabre way Fincher's Se7en was to NYC. It is an utterly weird, quirky book that contained elements I never even knew I wanted to read about until now: dysfunctional families, the hot-and-humid raw side of backwater Florida, taxidermy. Kudos to Arnett's brilliantly bizarre mind.Mostly Dead Things is a story of sewing open wounds We were collectors, dismantlers, and artisans. We piece together life from the remnants of death. This is a visceral, gritty love letter to Florida in the same grisly, macabre way Fincher's Se7en was to NYC. It is an utterly weird, quirky book that contained elements I never even knew I wanted to read about until now: dysfunctional families, the hot-and-humid raw side of backwater Florida, taxidermy. Kudos to Arnett's brilliantly bizarre mind.Mostly Dead Things is a story of sewing open wounds left behind by the people you love, of the different ways people handle dimensional monsters like grief and trauma in their own ways, of how things fall apart. One morning, Jessa-Lynn Morton walks into her family's taxidermy workshop to find her father's body. Henceforth the cookie crumbles: she struggles to keep up with a failing business alone, mourning; her brother is absent and lost; her mother acts out and begins using their displays to make completely wacky art. I crave more of the chaos. I loved seeing everything fall apart -- because sometimes they have to, in order to start rebuilding things. Love was the steady burn of acid indigestion. Love was a punch in the gut that ruptured your spleen. Love was a broken telephone that refused to dial out. Milo told Brynn he loved her and I could see from the look on his face he thought the words were a magical incantation. Say the word love and it's there for you; say the word love and the other person feels it too. Arnett's writing is very unique. She does not flinch from candor, from violence and gore; everything is as gross and down-to-earth as it should be, yet this very move takes on a mutilated elegance of its own. Of course, there were a number of problems that I felt iffy about -- the odd relationship between Milo and Brynn and Jessa, for instance -- but everything worked. Everything worked towards portraying every character authentically as they overcame and accepted, and I loved that.I loved that they were each dealing with more than a single thing, that Jessa's father's suicide was just a catalyst for so much more for every single person. I loved that the characters did not handle things with grace, but that regardless of how flawed and screwed up they were, they had their reasons. People leave. People grieve and mourn and forgive. People do stupid things. That's how it should be depicted. That's how it really is. That's real life. We let things crash and burn and try to salvage the remains after we've stomped all over them, but we forget that others do the same too. I love you, I am going to hurt you, but I love you. Just remember that. So for all the flaws this book had, there was something immensely compelling about its quirky narration. It was absorbing because it was human. It was a story so simultaneously vivid and dull that I could feel every moment of the Florida setting, and I was both repulsed and immersed completely. If anything, opinions will be mixed, but I will be here for it -- because Mostly Dead Things is odd in that truly special way only books can be.ARC received via NetGalley from Tin House.
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  • Tracey
    January 1, 1970
    "Milo looked over, eyes darting between the box of my lap and our father, who'd handed him nothing. Fur poked from the flap at the top. I pulled out a monkey dressed in a top hat and tails. It had a monocle over one brown, beady eye. It looked a lot like Mr. Peanut. 'You like it?' My father tickled the fuzz that tufted the top of its miniscule cravat. 'My dad made it for me when I was your age. Now it's yours.'A silk rose was pinned to its tuxedo jacket. It was very well rendered: the mouth prop "Milo looked over, eyes darting between the box of my lap and our father, who'd handed him nothing. Fur poked from the flap at the top. I pulled out a monkey dressed in a top hat and tails. It had a monocle over one brown, beady eye. It looked a lot like Mr. Peanut. 'You like it?' My father tickled the fuzz that tufted the top of its miniscule cravat. 'My dad made it for me when I was your age. Now it's yours.'A silk rose was pinned to its tuxedo jacket. It was very well rendered: the mouth proportioned perfectly, teeth set in even white lines. Its tail curved around its body, swirling into a gentle swoop that wrapped around the top of a tiny lacquered cane. I stared at its small, snickering face and wanted to throw it off the porch. It looked just like the monkey from that movie that gave everyone the plague." As an FYI, this wonderfully weird novel doesn't use taxidermied animals merely as a backdrop. It is front and center. There is a lot of skinning and sewing and gutting and tanning, but not in a grotesque way. And road kill. Lots of road kill. The human characters are all just a hot mess in perfectly realistic ways. Jessa and Milo, who are siblings, fall in love with the same woman, Brynn. Yeah, that's a mess, but that mess kind of makes the parents look neat and clean (The novel opens with Jessa finding her father's body after he had shot himself at his work bench). Then the mom begins to cut her grief loose by creating some avant garde art with the taxidermied animals and placing them in suggestive positions in the window display of the family's taxidermy shop. Is this novel dark? It would be easy to say yes. But, there's also a weird lightness to it, even in all the dysfunction and pain. So, again, like real life. Arnett is a great writer. There's a precision to her descriptive writing that matches the skill set required to do taxidermy (or, so I would imagine). Also, you will want to drink a cold beer (or two or three) as you read this because a) it is set in hot, humid Florida and b) the characters drink a lot of beer, Jessa especially. Also, this novel is super gay without it being a big gay novel (also, it just "came out" in June #Pride). This book is making a lot of MUST READ lists and I agree 100%. This is a must read, especially if you like quirky, dark literature.
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  • Brian
    January 1, 1970
    I can honestly say this book is unlike anything I’ve read before. I wasn’t sure I would like this for the first quarter of the book, but once I sank into it I ended up LOVING it.“When her taxidermist father commits suicide, Jessa-Lynn Morton takes over the family business while the rest of her family crumble with grief in bizarre ways. A dark and oftentimes comedic tale of love and loss.” Through a back and forth cadence of current and past scenes, Arnett slowly reveals the hidden, unspoken, and I can honestly say this book is unlike anything I’ve read before. I wasn’t sure I would like this for the first quarter of the book, but once I sank into it I ended up LOVING it.⁣⁣⁣⁣“When her taxidermist father commits suicide, Jessa-Lynn Morton takes over the family business while the rest of her family crumble with grief in bizarre ways. A dark and oftentimes comedic tale of love and loss.” Through a back and forth cadence of current and past scenes, Arnett slowly reveals the hidden, unspoken, and intertwined stories of this family of lost/confused/doing-just-fine-thank-you souls.⁣⁣Fair warning: she gets graphic. There’s a lot of meat and innards. But it’s important meat and innards! ⁣⁣It’s out on June 4, and I recommend a preorder/add to TBR if you love darkly funny family dynamics, odd premises, lesbian protagonists, taxidermy, #onlyinflorida stories, or writing that’s so amazingly visceral you feel fully in the moment alongside the characters.⁣⁣⁣⁣After I finished the book, I learned from Arnett’s twitter profile she’s a rad lesbian librarian from Orlando. And that’s why this book was written so well. She understood the characters and the setting. She used that to envelop the weirdness of the worlds of taxidermy and queer dating into a story about trauma and grief and family that left me feeling things. I just ordered her short story collection Felt in the Jaw because I want more!⁣⁣⁣⁣This book centers queer women. The story isn’t about their queer identity, per se, but (from my gay male POV) reflects the importance of it in the larger story of their lives. I loved this. It’s the reality we live as queer people who exist in the world as part of families, jobs, and sometimes…taxidermied peacocks.⁣⁣⁣⁣I received this advanced reader copy from Tin House (my first ARC – thank you!).Follow me on Instagram for more #bookstagram reviews and photos: @brianreadsbooks
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  • Emi Bevacqua
    January 1, 1970
    The Morton family runs a taxidermy shop in central Florida. Since the sudden death of her father who she'd always idolized, Jessa-Lynn is floundering, trying to deal with her mother Libby's long-stifled creative talents which are running amok (manifesting in pornographic anthropomorphic dead animal displays), and unable to connect with or rely on her younger brother Milo since the shared object of their affection up and left them both. Narrator Jessa's grief, anguish and the Morton sibling-Brynn The Morton family runs a taxidermy shop in central Florida. Since the sudden death of her father who she'd always idolized, Jessa-Lynn is floundering, trying to deal with her mother Libby's long-stifled creative talents which are running amok (manifesting in pornographic anthropomorphic dead animal displays), and unable to connect with or rely on her younger brother Milo since the shared object of their affection up and left them both. Narrator Jessa's grief, anguish and the Morton sibling-Brynn love triangle, are all extreme, confounding and palpable. Throughout the book I was conscious of a running theme of women and their long hair and the radical cutting of it. I like how tolerant the mom's conservative friends end up being for her. And I like the redemption arc several characters undergo. It's sad how little the Mortons know about each other at the outset, but gratifying to see them open up and develop towards the end, and I liked how it culminated in the merging of taxidermy with arts and crafts. I worried a lot about the self-destructive narrator's well-being throughout this book --financially, mentally, public health-wise; and Brynn's daughter Lolee's actions confused me, I couldn't tell how old she was supposed to be when she's licking the car window, and biting her aunt's denim-clad knee.I was left with a lot of questions, like where were all the exotic animals coming from, why did Jessa feel entitled to that bearskin rug, and why wouldn't her father put that dying dog out of its misery already; but I give Kristen Arnett all the credit in the world for not divulging what his final letter said. Outstanding debut novel.
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  • Emily Grace
    January 1, 1970
    Thanks to Tin House for sending me this review copy. All opinions are my own. You don't know what love is, I thought, wanting to smack him. Love is the steady burn of acid indigestion. Love was a punch in the gut that ruptured your spleen. Love was a broken telephone that refused to dial out. Mostly Dead Things is unlike anything I've ever read. In the best way. When people inevitably ask me what I'm reading upon seeing the beautiful cover I usually stumble around until I manage to get out somet Thanks to Tin House for sending me this review copy. All opinions are my own. You don't know what love is, I thought, wanting to smack him. Love is the steady burn of acid indigestion. Love was a punch in the gut that ruptured your spleen. Love was a broken telephone that refused to dial out. Mostly Dead Things is unlike anything I've ever read. In the best way. When people inevitably ask me what I'm reading upon seeing the beautiful cover I usually stumble around until I manage to get out something along the lines of: It's like... FloridaMostly Dead Things is messy and painful and wholly realistic portrait of a working class family in hot muggy Florida and the eccentricities and heartbreak that comes with.Starting with the narrow scope of our narrator, Jessa-Lynn and her rose-colored memories of her recently deceased father, slowly the family blooms into full view through vivid flashbacks. I loved this style of storytelling. I felt like I was peeling back untold layers of another family's troubled history in a way that made me privileged to have such a clear view. The writing no-doubt aided in this feeling, everything from emotions to setting being so visceral yet uncomplicated that I felt like could hop in the car and meet the characters if only I was willing to put in the miles to get there.I'll say no more as the discovery is half the joy and what makes this story so compulsively readable. I'll definitely be picking up anything Kristin Arnett comes out with in the future.
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  • Sarah
    January 1, 1970
    “I often wondered why we couldn’t talk about the present, why the past held all the promise while the future sat before us like stagnant water.”This book is a really good example of how wonderfully weird and compelling and gay a story can be even in a very traditional structure and using obvious metaphor. Structure-wise, there’s nothing surprising here, but the details of the story are so wild and really had me hooked. The writing is straightforward but the descriptions are both wacky and totall “I often wondered why we couldn’t talk about the present, why the past held all the promise while the future sat before us like stagnant water.”This book is a really good example of how wonderfully weird and compelling and gay a story can be even in a very traditional structure and using obvious metaphor. Structure-wise, there’s nothing surprising here, but the details of the story are so wild and really had me hooked. The writing is straightforward but the descriptions are both wacky and totally beautiful; the sense of place and the character development are very well done. Something about Florida just makes for the strangest stories, and this isn’t the first entry in the ‘Florida-inspired zaniness’ canon, but it is incredibly enjoyable. Unless you really can’t handle dead animals- if you’re just dubious about it, I still highly recommend this read, and there’s almost no cruelty- but if you are extremely sensitive to dead animals there might be some hard stuff for you in this book. It’s a pretty crucial aspect, in case the title isn’t clear enough 😜This story is about Jessa-Lynn, the love of her life Brynn, her brother and parents, art, sex, sexual art, grief, death, love, messiness both literal and figurative. It’s funny and dark and gross and full of light. I definitely recommend it to anyone who finds those descriptors at least a little intriguing. Thank you Tin House for the ARC! I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review; opinions are my own.
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  • Laura Powell
    January 1, 1970
    queer love triangle, taxidermy, sex, family, vulnerability, repression, death, & stagnation I loved the writing style. I’m not typically squeamish, but it did get pretty squirmy at times with frequent references to parasites/rot/vomit/etc. When I had 2 hours left on the audiobook, I almost stopped entirely. The narrator’s self-loathing, refusal to handle emotions, selfishness, and constant flashbacks to her painful love triangle (it’s hard to share the woman you love with your brother) were queer love triangle, taxidermy, sex, family, vulnerability, repression, death, & stagnation I loved the writing style. I’m not typically squeamish, but it did get pretty squirmy at times with frequent references to parasites/rot/vomit/etc. When I had 2 hours left on the audiobook, I almost stopped entirely. The narrator’s self-loathing, refusal to handle emotions, selfishness, and constant flashbacks to her painful love triangle (it’s hard to share the woman you love with your brother) were hard to get through. Doing so was emotionally arduous. I am glad I pushed through because I think her redemption arc was worthwhile and pulled together the story’s themes rather nicely. It centers heavily on pain, vulnerability, intimacy, the desire for love and acceptance, and the complicated nature of thinking we know our family simply because of our proximity to them. The story wasn’t perfect and some bits didn’t make sense to me. I definitely could’ve done with less high school love flashbacks (Brynn sucks). In the end, I think it succeeded at what it was trying to accomplish and spoke to the idea that to get over something, you have to feel it first. And that vulnerability is a risk worth taking with those we love.
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  • Ella
    January 1, 1970
    What an incredibly real book. The whole time I felt present in the oppressive Florida heat, like I was actually taking part in all of the gross and wonderful things that occur in this story. Jessa is not necessarily a likeable protagonist, but she is human, and her actions and decisions make total sense to me. I loved hearing about Jessa's relationships with Lolee and Bastien, especially with the intermittent flashbacks that illuminated their histories. Kristen Arnett does such a good job of wri What an incredibly real book. The whole time I felt present in the oppressive Florida heat, like I was actually taking part in all of the gross and wonderful things that occur in this story. Jessa is not necessarily a likeable protagonist, but she is human, and her actions and decisions make total sense to me. I loved hearing about Jessa's relationships with Lolee and Bastien, especially with the intermittent flashbacks that illuminated their histories. Kristen Arnett does such a good job of writing about icky stuff in a captivating, spot on way....I've never been to Florida but I felt like I was living there alongside Jessa. A few minor aspects of the book let it down slightly- the pace definitely slows down in the middle portion of the book a little, although it wasn't anything drastic. I wish we had gotten more about Lucinda, because I did feel a bit distant from her and wanted to understand Jessa and her together more. I don't know how else to describe the real ness of this book, but it reminds me of authors like Celeste Ng and and Sally Rooney, how you feel so connected to characters and empathetic about their lives. Please read this! I know I now need to pick up Arnett's short story collection to hear more from her
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  • Emily
    January 1, 1970
    Put this on pre-order now, this is going to be your favorite summer read. This is a thoroughly inventive and memorable novel — Kristen Arnett's story of a woman coming to terms with her father's shocking suicide and the stress of managing her relations along with the family taxidermy business is heartbreaking, offbeat, funny, and sharp. The protagonist, Jessa, is a queer woman living in Florida who has always desired to make her father proud; immersing herself in the taxidermy business, her life Put this on pre-order now, this is going to be your favorite summer read. This is a thoroughly inventive and memorable novel — Kristen Arnett's story of a woman coming to terms with her father's shocking suicide and the stress of managing her relations along with the family taxidermy business is heartbreaking, offbeat, funny, and sharp. The protagonist, Jessa, is a queer woman living in Florida who has always desired to make her father proud; immersing herself in the taxidermy business, her life is thrown for a loop when she finds her father dead in the workshop, leaving only a note imploring Jessa to take care of things. While Jessa tries to keep her mother and brother from falling apart, she's also grappling with the disappearance of Brynn, her brother's wife and the only woman she's ever loved. This is a novel that's steeped in a sense of place - the novel is every inch a Florida story, swamped (pun intended) with flashing gator eyes, sweltering sidewalks, lukewarm beer, convenience stores, and grease stains. Despite the griminess that percolates the story, it's ultimately one of pure hope, and it sticks with the reader long after finishing for its offbeat and colorful world.
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  • Susie Dumond
    January 1, 1970
    One morning, Jessa finds her father's body in his taxidermy shop along with a suicide note. While dealing with her grief and trying to keep the shop running, she also must try to keep her family together as they fall to pieces. Her mother has taken to rearranging the animals in the window into bawdy sex scenes, while her brother, niece, and nephew grapple with life after Jessa's sister-in-law walked out on them. And if she's being honest, she's not over her secret love affair with her sister-in- One morning, Jessa finds her father's body in his taxidermy shop along with a suicide note. While dealing with her grief and trying to keep the shop running, she also must try to keep her family together as they fall to pieces. Her mother has taken to rearranging the animals in the window into bawdy sex scenes, while her brother, niece, and nephew grapple with life after Jessa's sister-in-law walked out on them. And if she's being honest, she's not over her secret love affair with her sister-in-law either.This book is bizarre and unflinching and wonderful. Arnett is not afraid of the repulsive, both in dead animals and in living humans. This is a book about taxidermy and wacky families, but it's about so much more, too. It's about how hard it is to love a living being, how you wish you could capture one perfect moment with someone you've loved and lost, and how that never turns out quite how you hoped. It's about the limits of knowing someone inside and out, and it's about closure. I loved every weird page of this book. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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  • Brittany | thebookishfiiasco
    January 1, 1970
    (@tin_house #partner).‘Though I planned out everything, my life was somehow comprised of an endless series of unwanted surprises.’.this book has been such a multifaceted experience. there are moments embedded throughout that grouch on topics of grief, loss, love, family, growth, and new beginnings. following Jessa through her life and experiences was a whirlwind of an experience..this book took me a bit longer to get into 1) because i’ve been a bit busier lately, and 2) because the content requi (@tin_house #partner).‘Though I planned out everything, my life was somehow comprised of an endless series of unwanted surprises.’.this book has been such a multifaceted experience. there are moments embedded throughout that grouch on topics of grief, loss, love, family, growth, and new beginnings. following Jessa through her life and experiences was a whirlwind of an experience..this book took me a bit longer to get into 1) because i’ve been a bit busier lately, and 2) because the content requires a bit more investment to attach to. while i loved the vivid story-telling, incorporation of memories and the past, and the raw grittiness of the story, there were moments i found myself yearning for what would come next, and found myself feeling unresolved, at times. now that i’ve had more time to sit with it, i actually find those bits that feel unresolved are the moments i felt i walked away learning something different— either about myself or something else. it’s hard to explain, but because the content felt unresolved, i then had to manage those feelings, which is harder, sure, but encourages the reader to confront some of the deeper, more challenging content, and i really love that. .I found intrigue in every character and appreciated the uniqueness each aspect of the story holds. i would recommend if you like a dark, quirky book that touches on the topics i mentioned above. this will be an interesting summer read to chat about! out on 6|4|19!.4/5 ✨
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  • Susan
    January 1, 1970
    3.5 stars? I'm can't decide between 3 and 4. Despite being told up front that the story centers on a family of taxidermists, I didn't think that it would deal so much with actual taxidermy. Jessa, the daughter and main character, takes over the business after her dad commits suicide. Through the course of the book, we watch the family fall apart and come back together, all while stuffing dead animals. I loved how natural Jessa's homosexuality was dealt with. It wasn't a "thing," it was just part 3.5 stars? I'm can't decide between 3 and 4. Despite being told up front that the story centers on a family of taxidermists, I didn't think that it would deal so much with actual taxidermy. Jessa, the daughter and main character, takes over the business after her dad commits suicide. Through the course of the book, we watch the family fall apart and come back together, all while stuffing dead animals. I loved how natural Jessa's homosexuality was dealt with. It wasn't a "thing," it was just part of her. So many books make it a big event. This was just Jessa. I didn't like how much the story bounced around. It was too easy to get lost in memories because the reader isn't dealing with multiple timelines but instead going from moment to moment. In the end, almost everything is tied up nicely, at least enough to leave the reader having enjoyed a good story. Maybe just don't plan to read while eating?Thanks to NetGalley and Tin House Books for a copy of the book. This review is my own opinion.
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  • Tori
    January 1, 1970
    I’d nicked myself with the blade digging at the wiring, and some of my blood had wept into the fur. Occasionally when I sent out a piece like that, with little bits of me in it, I felt as if a part of me were leaving for a better life somewhere else. Mostly Dead Things makes me feel like I'm being let in on something so real. Like it isn't hiding behind anything and isn't bothered if you take it or leave it; it just is. It gives me a sense of intimacy with the main character that I love. I feel I’d nicked myself with the blade digging at the wiring, and some of my blood had wept into the fur. Occasionally when I sent out a piece like that, with little bits of me in it, I felt as if a part of me were leaving for a better life somewhere else. Mostly Dead Things makes me feel like I'm being let in on something so real. Like it isn't hiding behind anything and isn't bothered if you take it or leave it; it just is. It gives me a sense of intimacy with the main character that I love. I feel like I've never read a book about a lesbian that isn't trying to be about ALL lesbians or the General Lesbian Experience. It's so refreshing to get this unique and frank glimpse into Jessa's life.
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  • Susanna
    January 1, 1970
    Karen Russell's blurb of Arnett's first novel calls it "surprising," and that's what I kept thinking as I read. This book is ... so much fun? Is that a wrong thing to write about a book that involves lots of dead stuff (including taxidermy told in gross-but-not-gratuitously-gross detail), sticky thighs, family trauma, weird reveals of parents' sexuality, abandonment, heartbreak, arson, drinking way excessively, and oh yeah, the suicide of the beloved patriarch after a long struggle? Well, wrong Karen Russell's blurb of Arnett's first novel calls it "surprising," and that's what I kept thinking as I read. This book is ... so much fun? Is that a wrong thing to write about a book that involves lots of dead stuff (including taxidermy told in gross-but-not-gratuitously-gross detail), sticky thighs, family trauma, weird reveals of parents' sexuality, abandonment, heartbreak, arson, drinking way excessively, and oh yeah, the suicide of the beloved patriarch after a long struggle? Well, wrong or not, the book is fun -- but at the same time, I felt real emotion from and for Jessa-Lynn as she struggles to find her way to some kind of resolution and adulthood that will help her be mostly NOT dead for a change. Welcome to sweet, sticky, buggy, sexy Florida, I guess!
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