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Mostly Dead Things

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  384 ratings  ·  94 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, 354 pages
Published June 4th 2019 by Tin House Books
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3.99  · 
Rating details
 ·  384 ratings  ·  94 reviews

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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, "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.
Meg Gee
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.
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.
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 ar ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jun 09, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: queer-bookshelf
“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
Apr 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Feb 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
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
Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, favorites
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.
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
Miriam Vance
Mostly Dead Things is both hilarious and morbid. Arnett paints a vivid picture of life in Florida and familial dysfunction.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Susie Dumond
Jun 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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- ...more
Apr 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019, lgbtq
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, ...more
Afton Montgomery
May 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Stephanie Linnell
Jun 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book was one of the oddest books I've ever read and I found it to be quite wonderful! I pretty much read this book in one sitting as I couldn't put it down. 4.5 out of 5 stars (rounded up to 5 stars)!
Jun 08, 2019 added it
Shelves: audio
dnf @ 10%

I tried this on audio and could not stand the narrator. I was kind of bored and a lot grossed out so I don't really have the desire to buy it in ebook. If I come across it at the library I'll try it again but if not then meh......
Jun 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is amazing. It’s funny and weird and tragic and heartbreaking and healing and all kinds of complicated and messy but utterly compelling things. I’ve been waiting for this book for a while and it was even better than I’d hoped.
Jun 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I reviewed this at Black Warrior Review:

"Like Florida itself, Arnett contains multitudes, and all of her personalities are on display in her debut novel, the poignantly grim and frequently hilarious Mostly Dead Things."
Emi Bevacqua
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
Apr 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Shelly Shore
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019-books
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
Jun 17, 2019 rated it liked it
This book has certainly has some shining moments. It is very readable, the dialogue is sharp, and the descriptions provide a very clear, almost tactile image of Central Florida. However, I can't give it more than 3 stars because it left me feeling almost nothing, despite the fact that the premise of the book is a deeply emotional one.
Jessa's POV is certainly fleshed-out--Arnett gives her a very distinct voice and a recognizable perspective. However, her constant repression of emotions, her dist
May 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"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
Jun 17, 2019 rated it it was ok
I feel mean-spirited for disliking this book. The most admirable thing about it is Ms. Arnett's love for her characters -- on every single blood-, pus-, urine- and offal-stained age, she finds a way to ask us not to judge the people in this novel for the extremely dubious choices they make. And I really did try to feel some empathy for Jessa lonely lesbian taxidermist, Milo her checked-out brother, and even Brynn, the lover of the former and the husband of the latter who abandoned both, not to m ...more
Emily Grace
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
Apr 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
“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
Laura Powell
Jun 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
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
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“You don't know what love is, I thought, wanting to smack him. 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.” 0 likes
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