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 is moving in on his territory.
Jessa comes from a family of taxidermists; getting into the family business was the one surefire way she had of bonding with her somewhat aloof father. But when he takes his life into his own hands following a cancer diagnosis, the family is split apart. Jessa's brother, Milo, withdraws away from his mother, sister, and children. Their mother begins to methodically destroy her late husband's animals, turning them into disturbingly erotic displays. And Jessa is torn between stopping her mother and preserving her father's memory, and obsessing over Brynn, her brother's wife, and the woman she's been having a relationship with since high school.
MOSTLY DEAD THINGS doesn't shirk on the gory details, so be prepared to learn everything you probably never wanted to know about taxidermy. That part didn't bother me much, since I've read a couple nonfiction books about taxidermy as well, but sensitive readers should know that there are some animal deaths in here, some of them quite cruel. There's also the whole cheating factor, with Brynn stringing along two siblings for years, and Jessa knowingly continuing her affair with her brother's wife. I know I have some friends who can't stand to read about adultery and cheating, and that's a pretty significant plot point in MOSTLY DEAD THINGS; it can't be avoided.
MOSTLY DEAD THINGS is a pretty interesting look at a dysfunctional family's various ways of attempting to overcome grief. Some scenes were darkly funny, and others were bizarre to the point of being cringeworthy. One thing for sure, is that I've never read a book quite like this, and in a market that's inundated with copycats, originality is definitely noteworthy and appreciated. I'm giving this book 3-stars because I did like it and I thought it took some brave risks, but some of the characters fell a little flat for me and the ending fizzled out-- despite a pretty compelling beginning.
Overall, not bad.
Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!
3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars