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Mostly Dead Things

3.39  ·  Rating details ·  15,904 ratings  ·  2,169 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 356 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Tin House Books
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Average rating 3.39  · 
Rating details
 ·  15,904 ratings  ·  2,169 reviews

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Jun 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this novel. The physicality of it is impressive. Every aspect of living is splayed out--the smells, tastes, textures of human bodies interacting without human bodies. At the heart of it is a brother and sister, in love with the same woman who leaves them both to pick up the pieces of their lives. This family is so tenderly, humanely rendered. There is so much heart here without too much sentimentality. Jessa is an infuriating protagonist but still, so compelling, so damaged, so ...more
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-releases
Despite the neon bright cover that screams ‘Quirky! Funny!’, Mostly Dead Things is Mostly about Sad People, and I didn’t find much mirth in this debut (maybe a sardonic undercurrent, at best). Instead, this is quite a dark story about a family of grieving, emotionally damaged people.

The narrator, Jessa, has only ever loved one woman, Brynn, but Brynn chose the more conventional life of marriage and babies offered by Jessa’s brother Milo (while continuing to have sex with Jessa on the sly).
Christopher Alonso
Jan 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbtq
This is one of the strangest books I've ever read, and it was fantastic. Florida can be weird, and Kristen Arnett was like, "hold my beer," 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. ...more
Julie Ehlers
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: indiespensable
It would have saved us all a lot of time and exasperation if the author of Mostly Dead Things had just included a note at the front of the book:

Dear reader, please note that the family in this book is grieving and they have let things go a bit. Therefore, whenever any kind of household item is mentioned, please assume it is dusty, dirty, sticky, and/or broken. Whenever anyone has a runny nose or dirty hands, please assume they wipe them off on the clothing they are wearing. Further assume that s
Jul 14, 2019 rated it liked it
Reading this book was a lot like riding a merry-go-round: I was entertained and mildly fascinated by the unusual scenery until it became obvious that all we were really doing was riding through the same fixed territory again and again and again. I was thinking this could even be a 4-star read for the first third or so, but then found myself tossing away quarter- and half-stars as the circular path became less meaningful.

Plenty has already been said about the squalid, gruesome surroundings in whi
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews at: http://52bookminimum.blogspot.com/

“Why not try something different instead of the same old shit that’s been making us miserable our whole lives?”

“I haven’t been miserable my whole life!”

“Really? I’ve been pretty miserable.”

Mostly Dead Things was brought to my attention a couple of months ago via way of a recommendation by my friend Mindy. To her I say . . . .

The jumping off point to this story is when Jessa-Lynn finds her daddy has blown his brains out on t
May 13, 2020 rated it it was ok
Mostly Dead Things is the story of Jessa Morton, a woman who is left to pick up the pieces following her father’s suicide, committed at the family’s taxidermy shop where Jessa works. She, her mother, and her brother, Milo, get along well enough, though the family struggles to communicate with each other, often keeping conversations surface level. Jessa attempts to find closure, while Milo shuts down, and their mother makes unusual art with the animals in the shop. Jessa and Milo are also both st ...more
Quite the queer novel! I loved the queerness of Mostly Dead Things, its eccentricity, its bi representation, and its messy, complicated associations between dead animals and human relationships and sexuality and grief. There’s a raw physicality to this novel that will resonate with those who appreciate language that appeals to the senses, like textures, scents, and motions like breaking into something with your hands or peeling something apart to reveal what lies underneath.

I feel like this book
May 10, 2019 rated it did not like it
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 me ...more
Meg E.
Jan 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Phenomenal. Queer Ladies + Taxidermy + Complex Familial Relationships + A Small Town = a meteor to the gut. Read it, k bye.
Nenia ✨ I yeet my books back and forth ✨ Campbell

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I was trying to project, "I swear I'm not a psycho" vibes to the people side-eying me for reading this book, even though the title was basically 99% of the reason behind why I applied for this in the first place. MOSTLY DEAD THINGS is a book chock-full of dark humor, and is definitely not for the faint of heart. I thought Carl Hiaasen had the market cornered on the unique brand of Floridian-style "crazy," but apparently Kristen Arnett i
Jul 10, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Mostly Dead Things, mostly disgusting, dirty and funky, mostly too icky for me, but... it was an interesting look into the world of taxidermy.

The excessive funky descriptions wrapped around all the love and grief didn't quite work for me. I felt very distant from all of these characters, or perhaps it was that I distanced myself from them. If it wasn't for a group read, I would have given up on this at several different stages along the way.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it liked it

Well, the cover is lovely.
If only Flamingoes frolicking on a page unblemished by food stains, dust or gore was truly representative of the reading experience. Where is the sexy Cicada ?, the trio of Peacocks ? or even one of those dioramas involving goats in compromising positions ?

I have never been to Florida or even know that much about the state but in this novel Florida is essentially the main character. It is one of the strengths of the novel, a strong sense of place. The humidity pra
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was ok
This story was just too relentlessly sad. The characters are all filthy, depressed, and passive-aggressive. They are grieving the death of their father and abandonment by a former lover. My biggest issue with the book is the lack of finesse. The reader is constantly hit over the head with repeated scenes that show just how sad and disgusting everything is. Yes - I got it! And the narrator’s incessant pining over her former lover without realizing what a manipulative brat she was drove me nuts!
Jenny (Reading Envy)
This is a good read for people who like Florida weirdness. Jessa has been working with her father, apprenticing at his taxidermy shop, when he takes his own life. She tries to keep the shop going while her family falls apart - her brother, who had a child with her high school girlfriend, and her mother who has taken to creating sexualized sculptures with some of the taxidermied animals. Deeper are themes of grief, connection, siblings, and art.
Jul 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Who knew that a novel about a taxidermist who shoots himself and his adult daughter who (literally) cleans up the mess and takes over the family business could be SO moving and SO funny and SO surprising? Kristen Arnett is an astute observer of the human condition, like all terrific writers, and I savored narrator Jessa-Lynn Morton and her seriously oddball family and friends. Bonus: IT'S SET IN FLORIDA, WHICH MAKES ALL THAT WEIRDNESS ALL THE MORE WONDERFUL. ...more
Katie Long
This isn’t a bad book, but it’s an ugly one. Not only is everything here dirty, smelly, complicated, and repressed, Arnett uses some of the ugliest sounding words and similes to describe how gross everything is. It’s clearly intentional, and certainly not without skill, but do you really want to spend 300 odd pages in this muck? I’ll ponder that while I take a very long, hot shower.
Jan 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbtqia
2.5 stars

just a buncha Sad People being Sad and not much else

Mostly Dead Things was such a depressing book. No narrative is good without conflict; the problem with this book is that there was nothing in it but conflict. I genuinely cannot think of a single moment from this book that was even remotely close to positive—not a single scene or line or relationship that wasn't drenched in sadness or angst or repressed feelings. Emotion is not dynamic in Arnett's novel; it doesn't have highs and lows
Jun 30, 2019 rated it liked it
3.5 stars. Guts and gore, guts and gore. Not convinced that it's all necessary or contributes. But a compelling read nonetheless. ...more
Coreena McBurnie
Apr 29, 2019 rated it liked it
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
Jul 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5, rounded up.

It's no surprise to find Karen Russell blurbing her enthusiasm for this debut novel on the book jacket, since it kept reminding me (a LOT), in both style and subject, of Russell's own Swamplandia!, which I actually didn't much care for - at least not as much as I did this. Both concern quirky Florida families, in Russell's tome a family of professional alligator wrestlers, and here, an equally funky family of taxidermists. Although It took me an absurdly long time to get through
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was ok
I’m beginning to realize that I need to start expecting less out of really hyped debut novels. They are very rarely the literary coming of Jesus the blurbs on the back cover proclaim them to be. Character motivations are pretty unbelievable in this one, even when explored in relentless detail. Narrative thrust is almost nonexistent. The novel really shines in its biting humor and portrayal of the strange and macabre world of taxidermy (even if all the taxidermy metaphors were stretched to their ...more
4.5 stars
Don’t be mislead by the blurbs. The book is not funny. It’s a beautifully written tragedy through and through.
Bailey Bohn
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2019
“Brynn had been shitty. My brother had been shitty. My parents were shitty. I was the worst one of all, the shittiest one.”

This quote. All the characters were shitty people. They got on my every last nerve and I’m so glad to be done with them.
These butterflies are set in rows.
So small and gray inside their case
They look alike now. I suppose
Death makes most creatures commonplace.

- from "Guide to the Other Gallery," by Dana Gioia, collected in Rebel Angels: 25 Poets of the New Formalism

It's always interesting when two very different books I'm reading seem to comment on each other, and this passage is perfect for Kristen Arnett's debut - a novel about preserving the dead, about forcing the ugly, messy past into a shape that's acceptabl
Erin Glover
Jun 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Sewing up eviscerated dead animals is how Jessa represses her feelings. This love story, where a sister and brother share the same woman, is told in wonderfully concise and vivid language through the blood and guts inherent in taxidermy.
We were a family of taxidermists...We were collectors, dismantlers, and artisans. We pieced together life from the remnants of death. ...Our heart was in the curve of a well rendered lip smoothed over painted teeth.

Jessa and Milo’s father owns a taxidermy store s
Sep 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 Stars for Mostly Dead Things (audiobook) by Kristen Arnett. This was a really unique story. It has some interesting characters and it’s set in the world of taxidermy. If you are squeamish about animals getting hurt in your stories then this is not the novel for you.
Jul 28, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: indiebuddyreads
Jun 17, 2019 rated it did not like it
I'm going to have to abandon this one. And let it blow in the wind. ...more
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