Mostly Dead Things

Kristen Arnett. Tin House, $24.95 (366p) ISBN 978-1-947793-30-9

In Arnett’s dark and original debut, Jessa discovers her father dead of a suicide in the family’s Florida taxidermy shop. She also finds a note asking her to take care of the failing business, her mother, and her brother, Milo. Additionally, Jessa mourns the loss of Brynn, her brother’s (now) ex-wife and Jessa’s longtime lover, who left both her and Milo years before. As Jessa grieves over her lost loved ones, she must also deal with her remaining ones: Milo sinks from the world, missing work and barely paying attention to his children, and Jessa’s mother enters a late creative period, using the stuffed and mounted animals from the shop to make elaborate sexual tableaus for a local art gallery. Jessa also begins a romantic relationship with Lucinda, the director of the gallery and benefactor for Jessa’s mother’s newfound (and, for Jessa, “perverted”) artistry. Set in a richly rendered Florida and filled with delightfully wry prose and bracing honesty, Arnett’s novel introduces a keenly skillful author with imagination and insight to spare. (June)