Arnett's storytelling is razor-sharp and Mostly Dead Things reads like a beautiful train wreck. Death's influence is everywhere, from the roadkill and peacocks Jessa taxidermies to her father's suicide. Arnett explores what it means to be vulnerable as well as lose everything and still be able to get up every morning.— Rachel Watkins
Exciting and colorful writing that pops at every sentence. A fun read even through its darkest, strangest bits with a vibrant cast of characters. Arnett takes a bonesaw to the taboos of sex and death to create a shrewd and morbid celebration all things queer, strange, and straight-up messed up.— Luis
“After her father commits suicide, Jessa is tasked with saving her family’s taxidermy business from going bankrupt. She also has to take care of her family’s strange problems — including her mother’s affinity for turning their taxidermy into risqué works of art. Mostly Dead Things is a fun, eccentric book with a steamy lesbian romance, ongoing sibling rivalry, and dark confessions of a family that is willing to go the mile in order to make ends meet. Stuffed with humor, heartfelt moments, and some gritty bits, Arnett’s writing will make you laugh, cry, and wonder how an author’s first novel can be so engaging and well-written!”
— Sage Cristal, UC San Diego Bookstore, La Jolla, CA
“Kristen Arnett’s Mostly Dead Things is a unique and charismatic story that winds its way through family matters, personal strife, and most important of all: taxidermy. Great for fans of Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!”
— Delany Holcomb, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, NC
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 brother Milo withdraws, struggling to function. And Brynn, Milo's wife―and the only person Jessa's ever been in love with―walks out without a word.
As Jessa seeks out less-than-legal ways of generating income, her mother's art escalates―picture a figure of her dead husband and a stuffed buffalo in an uncomfortably sexual pose―and the Mortons reach a tipping point. For the first time, Jessa has no choice but to learn who these people truly are, and ultimately how she fits alongside them.
Kristen Arnett's debut novel is a darkly funny, heart-wrenching, and eccentric look at loss and love.