The celebrated New York Times Bestseller
A Best Book of the Year pick at the New York Times, NPR, The New Yorker, TIME, Washington Post, Oprahmag.com, Thrillist, Shelf Awareness, Good Housekeeping and more.
What does it take to come back to life? For Jessa-Lynn Morton, the question is not an abstract one. In the wake of her father’s suicide, Jessa has stepped up to manage his failing taxidermy business while the rest of the Morton family crumbles. Her mother starts sneaking into the taxidermy shop to make provocative animal art, while her brother, Milo, withdraws. And Brynn, Milo’s wife—and the only person Jessa’s ever been in love with—walks out without a word. It’s not until the Mortons reach a tipping point that a string of unexpected incidents begins to open up surprising possibilities and second chances. But will they be enough to salvage this family, to help them find their way back to one another? Kristen Arnett’s breakout bestseller is a darkly funny family portrait; a peculiar, bighearted look at love and loss and the ways we live through them together.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
True to its title, Kristen Arnett’s first novel, Mostly Dead Things, opens with a scene dominated by a skinned deer—and after that startling beginning, the dead things just keep on rolling in. Jessa-Lynn Morton, a third-generation Florida taxidermist, struggles to keep her family together and its business running in the wake of her father’s suicide. But she’s also mourning the loss of Brynn, a woman she’s in love with who happens to be married to her brother and who walked out on the family without a word of goodbye. Arnett depicts the Morton family’s struggles with tenderness and humanity, as well as streaks of deliciously black humor. Far more than just a book-length Florida Man story, Mostly Dead Things broke our hearts in the best possible way.
In Arnett's dark and original debut, Jessa discovers her father dead of a suicide in the family's Florida taxidermy shop. She also finds a note asking her to take care of the failing business, her mother, and her brother, Milo. Additionally, Jessa mourns the loss of Brynn, her brother's (now) ex-wife and Jessa's longtime lover, who left both her and Milo years before. As Jessa grieves over her lost loved ones, she must also deal with her remaining ones: Milo sinks from the world, missing work and barely paying attention to his children, and Jessa's mother enters a late creative period, using the stuffed and mounted animals from the shop to make elaborate sexual tableaus for a local art gallery. Jessa also begins a romantic relationship with Lucinda, the director of the gallery and benefactor for Jessa's mother's newfound (and, for Jessa, "perverted") artistry. Set in a richly rendered Florida and filled with delightfully wry prose and bracing honesty, Arnett's novel introduces a keenly skillful author with imagination and insight to spare.
Perfect American 21st Century Modernism
This novel is entirely visceral. It makes demands on sensory perception and tells a story that is both deeply emotional and very detached.
Maybe we all could stand not to be taking anti-depressants anymore and just feel.
Hype gone wild
Although well written, it was a struggle to get through. I could not love any of the characters. Her descriptions of places and people literally repulsed me (good writing terrible reading); “yeasty smelly breath with sugared donut skin,” the house was dark and dirty and dingy with dead animals and broken furniture. I wanted to like this book but I hated it. The two stars are only for the writing.
Mostly Dead Reading
Highly disappointed. Had potential but missed the mark for me.