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Kristen Arnett is Florida’s and the Internet’s Lesbian dad. Her puns are a delight and her “The existence of ___ implies ___” joke structure cracks me up every time she uses it. I have no idea when or why I followed her on Twitter but I’m glad I did. I love her Twitter presence so much that I thought I would probably love her books, too.
I didn’t have a lot of expectations going into MOSTLY DEAD THINGS but I feel like I’d seen the phrase “darkly funny” tossed around in reviews.
I was surprised when every part that I bet other people found funny made me sad.
MOSTLY DEAD THINGS is a great book and humans who read should try reading it.
It operated on a very visceral level for me for a few reasons.
It’s set in Central Florida. I lived on the east coast of Center Florida (mostly on the Space Coast) for the first 7 years of my life, years that loom large in how I think of myself and what feels like home. I lived in Tallahassee for another couple of years. Even though I’ve spent almost 80% of my life living in North Carolina, I still consider myself a Floridian. The feel of Florida - swampy and magical at the same time, hot and sticky but in a way that works with nostalgia, full of things that can kill you but are also kind of cool - resonates with my heart and is all over this book.
The characters in it are mostly in a very specific lower middle class Florida-version-of-Southern (probably white) culture. This is the kind of culture I was familiar with for most of my life, despite my family being genteel poor (and only kind of poor but like sometimes living on federal assistance so definitely not wealthy). The main character Jessa-Lyn has deep nostalgia for her youth spent burning Christmas trees by the swamp, hanging out by the lake, drinking water out of a hose at her best friend/only love Brynn’s trailer home. I think this is what my summers might have looked like, had I stayed in Florida. For special occasions you have homemade pie on pretty paper plates.
It is so infused with nostalgia and I am a sucker for that kind of thing. Arnett and I are very close in age so our referents for the things people wore and the way they did their hair as tweens and teens are basically the same.
The dynamic of a mother who is capable of lots of cool stuff but doesn’t feel like she’s had the opportunity to do it resonates with my family history across multiple generations.
My last real connection to Central Florida is dissolving last week as my mother and uncle close the sale of my late grandmother’s Melbourne house.
This is just a sampling. Basically this book squeezed my heart and pushed on bruises. It eventually patched it up but, you know, mostly in the final act.