This week we're taking a closer look at Powell's Pick of the Month Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett.
Author Kristen Arnett is many things — one of book Twitter's funniest writers; a librarian in Orlando, Florida; a columnist for LitHub; a short story author; and a 7-Eleven scholar ™ (according to her Twitter bio). With Mostly Dead Things
she can confidently add "one of the year’s most talented new novelists" to the list. — Jill O.
Indiespensable Volume 80
We're thrilled to present Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett as our selection for Volume 80 of Indiespensable. Powell's subscription club delivers the best new books, with special attention to independent publishers.
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Florida has long been the land of the weird, a place where humidity thickens the blood, strip clubs offer free flu shots, and an alarming number of zoo animals make the news. So it's the perfect setting for Kristen Arnett’s raucous debut novel, Mostly Dead Things
, which follows a taxidermist in her late thirties as she tackles the messes left behind by her runaway lover — also her brother’s wife — and her father’s suicide.
Faced with a struggling family business, a grieving mom with a penchant for BDSM art, a pseudo-murderous nephew, and a diet of cheap, flat beer, Jessa-Lynn tries to be her family’s source of stability and reason, only to come up time and again against her own emotional demons and the jointly comforting and disturbing eccentricities of her family and home state. Mostly Dead Things
is darkly funny — a horrific but slapstick scene of the family chasing down a flock of golf course peacocks for a taxidermy project comes to mind — and at the same time a thoughtful exploration of what happens when people refuse to relinquish the past. Jessa-Lynn is incapable of moving past the twin abandonments of her lover and father, and believes that by maintaining the pre-trauma status quo (same job, same relationships, same bad habits, same unhappiness) she can protect herself and those she loves from further harm. As you might suspect, the novel proves her wrong, and it does so with humor and heart.
Mostly Dead Things
is the quintessential Floridian novel, hilariously strange and discomfiting, yet at the same time deeply human. We may not all have a dildo-wielding mom or a nephew with a dead pet habit, but as the mortifying, compassionate Mostly Dead Things
makes clear — and every Florida headline attests — even the best of us have a tiny, gator-slinging maniac hidden deep inside, just waiting to stir shit up.
Check out the rest of our Picks of the Month here