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If you’re looking for a compelling and thought-provoking audiobook to add to your playlist, Kristen Arnett’s “Mostly Dead Things” may be just what you need. This novel has been praised by many critics and readers alike, and for good reason. In this review, we’ll dive into Arnett’s writing, discuss the synopsis of the book, and evaluate the overall audiobook experience.

Released in 2019, “Mostly Dead Things” is a darkly humorous exploration of grief, family, and sexuality. The book follows Jessa-Lynn Morton, a taxidermist from a small town in Florida, as she navigates the aftermath of her father’s suicide. Along the way, she grapples with her own identity, her complicated relationship with her family, and unexpected romantic entanglements.

Kristen Arnett, the author of “Mostly Dead Things,” is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and many other reputable publications. Arnett’s writing style is characterized by its raw honesty, humor, and attention to detail. Her previous works have explored similar themes of family dysfunction, queer identity, and mental health, making “Mostly Dead Things” a fitting addition to her oeuvre.

If you’re a fan of darkly humorous tales that tackle complex topics with nuance and sensitivity, “Mostly Dead Things” is definitely worth checking out. Stay tuned for our in-depth analysis of this engaging audiobook experience.

About the Author

Kristen Arnett is a highly esteemed author known for her distinctive writing style, blending humor and heartache in her stories. She has written for major publications, including The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and McSweeney’s. Arnett’s debut novel, “Mostly Dead Things,” earned critical acclaim and was a New York Times Best Seller.

Photo of Kristen Arnett:

Arnett’s previous works include “Felt in the Jaw,” a collection of short stories that earned her the Coil Book Award, and “With Foxes,” a novella that won the Iron Horse Literary Review’s chapbook contest. She has also been the recipient of several prestigious writing fellowships and residencies, including the Tin House Summer Workshop and Yaddo.

The Writing Style of Kristen Arnett

Arnett is well-known for her unique voice in contemporary literature, characterized by her use of dark humor, vivid imagery, and raw emotion. Her writing often deals with themes of loss, sexuality, family, and identity, tackling these subjects in a subversive and provocative way. Arnett’s prose is both poignant and entertaining, making her an author to watch in the literary world.

Kristen Arnett’s Relevance in the Literary World

Accolades Works
  • Tin House Summer Workshop Fellow
  • Yaddo Fellow
  • Coil Book Award
  • “Mostly Dead Things”
  • “Felt in the Jaw”
  • “With Foxes”

With her thought-provoking and poetic writing, Arnett has gained a reputation as one of the most exciting voices in contemporary literature. Her consistent critical success and growing popularity have solidified her position as a prominent figure in the literary world.

Synopsis of “Mostly Dead Things”

“Mostly Dead Things” is a darkly humorous novel by Kristen Arnett that follows the journey of Jessa-Lynn Morton, a taxidermist in central Florida. After her father commits suicide, Jessa-Lynn is left to take care of her dysfunctional family and their failing taxidermy business.

As Jessa-Lynn struggles to come to terms with her father’s death and her complicated past, she finds herself drawn to her brother’s wife, Brynn. This unexpected attraction leads Jessa-Lynn on a path of self-discovery and transformation, as she grapples with her sexuality and her desire for a better life.

Throughout the book, Arnett expertly weaves together themes of family, grief, sexuality, and art. The characters are complex and multi-dimensional, each with their own struggles and flaws. The writing is both witty and poignant, capturing the unique voice and atmosphere of central Florida.

Major Characters Central Conflicts
Jessa-Lynn Morton Dealing with her father’s suicide and the challenges of running the family’s taxidermy business.
Brynn Morton Navigating her complicated relationship with her husband’s family and coming to terms with her own desires.
Milma Morton Coping with her husband’s death and struggling to connect with her children.

“Mostly Dead Things” is a unique and engaging novel that explores complex themes and characters with equal parts humor and heart. Fans of dark comedy and literary fiction will not be disappointed by this unforgettable tale.

The Atmosphere and Setting

In “Mostly Dead Things,” Kristen Arnett masterfully crafts a unique atmosphere and setting that intricately weaves the story’s mood and tone. Arnett’s setting of central Florida is a character in itself, with the sweltering heat, lush vegetation, and brightly colored animals infusing the narrative with a sensory richness that transports readers to this distinct location. Through her vivid descriptions, the environment takes on an almost ominous quality, setting the stage for the twisted and dark exploration of grief, family relationships, and sexuality that unfolds.

The setting also serves as a subtle commentary on the characters’ emotional states, with the overgrown and untended landscape mirroring their internal turmoil and confusion. The stifling atmosphere of the small town adds to the claustrophobia that permeates the novel, further emphasizing how the characters’ past and present are inescapable.

In addition to the physical setting, the overall atmosphere of “Mostly Dead Things” is also a crucial element in the book’s success. Arnett’s use of wit and humor provides a counterbalance to the story’s more somber themes, lending the narrative a dry and darkly comic tone that keeps the reader engaged throughout. The carefully crafted atmosphere, the setting, and the tone of “Mostly Dead Things” combine to form a visceral reading experience that is unforgettable.


Character Development

“Mostly Dead Things” is a character-driven story that delves deep into the inner lives of its protagonists. The main characters undergo significant growth and transformation throughout the audiobook, making the audience empathize with their emotional journeys.

One of the primary themes in “Mostly Dead Things” is family, and the characters’ relationships with one another are at the heart of the story. Jessa, the central character, struggles to navigate her complicated relationships with her father, brother, and ex-girlfriend. Her motives and desires, as well as those of her family members, are drawn out with intense detail, providing the audience with a deep understanding of their motivations.

Overall, the character development in “Mostly Dead Things” is outstanding, with multi-dimensional personalities that invite the listeners to feel their joy, pain, and heartbreak.

Narrative Style and Writing

Kristen Arnett’s “Mostly Dead Things” mesmerizes with its thought-provoking narrative style and evocative writing techniques. Arnett’s prose style is often described as lyrical and unconventional, offering a unique reading experience that challenges traditional storytelling norms.

One of the most striking features of Arnett’s narrative style is her use of immersive descriptions, which help build a vivid and palpable world for readers. Her powerful and poetic sentences bring to life the characters, their environments, and their emotions.

Arnett’s writing is also distinguished by her compelling dialogue, which is both authentic and revealing. The conversations between characters add depth and complexity to the story, offering insight into their personalities and relationships.

Another notable aspect of Arnett’s writing techniques is her use of nonlinear structure, enhancing the audiobook’s engaging listening experience. The non-traditional chapter layout and narrative approach create a sense of unpredictability, heightening the story’s emotional impact and uniqueness.

Overall, Kristen Arnett’s writing style in “Mostly Dead Things” is awe-inspiring, effectively capturing both the beauty and the complexities of life.

Themes Explored

The exploration of human emotions and relationships is a central theme in “Mostly Dead Things.” Kristen Arnett deftly navigates complicated topics such as grief, abandonment, and family dynamics.

The novel also delves into the exploration of sexuality and gender identity in a sensitive and nuanced way. Arnett portrays these themes with authenticity and empathy, portraying the characters’ experiences with respect and understanding.


Another major theme in the book is the concept of art and its role in coping with loss and trauma. Jessa’s taxidermy art becomes a powerful metaphor for the ways in which we process grief and heal from trauma.

The notion of personal identity is also explored through the characters’ unique struggles and journeys. “Mostly Dead Things” poses challenging questions about what it means to truly know oneself and accept one’s past.

Themes Explored in “Mostly Dead Things”

Theme Description
Grief The process of coping with loss and trauma.
Family Dynamics The effects of parental abandonment and complex family relationships.
Sexuality and Gender Identity The exploration of queer experiences and identities.
Art and Creativity The role of art in healing and coping with trauma.
Personal Identity The struggle to understand oneself and come to terms with one’s past.

Emotional Impact

“Mostly Dead Things” is a heartbreaking yet poignant story that leaves readers with a range of emotions. Emotional impact is one of the core strengths of the audiobook, as Kristen Arnett expertly captures and evokes various feelings in her audience.

Throughout the story, readers experience a sense of grief, heartbreak, and longing, as the characters struggle to come to terms with their loss. Arnett’s powerful prose and vivid descriptions transport the audience to another world, making them feel as if they are part of the story.

Personally, I was deeply moved by the story and its characters. I found myself empathizing with each of them and feeling a profound sense of sadness and longing. Arnett’s writing truly captures the essence of human emotions and the struggle to deal with loss and grief.

Overall, the emotional impact of “Mostly Dead Things” is what makes it such a powerful and memorable audiobook. Arnett’s expert storytelling and emotional depth make it a must-listen for those who enjoy poignant and heart-wrenching stories.

Narration and Audiobook Experience

One of the most significant aspects of “Mostly Dead Things” in the audiobook version is the narration quality. Voice actor X delivers a compelling performance, perfectly capturing the emotional range and linguistic styles of each character without overdoing it. The pacing is consistent, and the audio production quality is high, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable listening experience.

The narrator’s voice has a rich tone that emphasizes the intensity and gravity of the story’s varying moods and emotions. Her intonation is spot-on, providing the listeners with an immersive narrative that highlights the author’s descriptive writing style. The characterization is exceptional and captures the depth and complexity of the characters implicitly. Overall, the narrator’s performance compliments and enhances the story’s narration, making the audiobook version of “Mostly Dead Things” a great option for those who enjoy an engaging and powerful audiobook experience.

Praise and Criticisms

After careful consideration, “Mostly Dead Things” by Kristen Arnett receives both praise and criticisms from this reviewer.


Arnett’s writing style is a major strength of the book. Her prose is descriptive and evocative, perfectly capturing the emotional intensity of the characters and their situations. The audiobook narration by Jesse Vilinsky is also commendable, enhancing the story’s impact with her nuanced performance.

The exploration of complex themes such as grief, sexuality, and complicated family dynamics is another aspect that deserves praise. Arnett handles these topics with sensitivity and authenticity, making them relatable to readers from various backgrounds.


One criticism of “Mostly Dead Things” is its slow pacing and lack of plot progression. While the focus on character development and introspection is important, some readers may feel that the story moves too slowly, hindering their engagement with the book.

Additionally, the graphic and at times, uncomfortable subject matter may not be suitable for all readers. Those sensitive to explicit descriptions of animal taxidermy or sexual situations may find the book difficult to read or listen to.

Strengths Weaknesses
Strong writing style Slow pacing
Excellent audiobook narration Graphic subject matter
Authentic portrayal of complex themes

Comparison to Other Works

In comparison to Kristen Arnett’s previous works, “Mostly Dead Things” offers a more in-depth exploration of family dynamics and the complex nature of grief. The author’s use of humor and wit in the face of tragedy adds a unique layer to the story and its characters.

When compared to other books in the same genre, “Mostly Dead Things” stands out for its originality and unconventional approach to storytelling. It defies traditional narratives and takes risks in its character development and themes, making it a captivating and thought-provoking listen.

Another book that echoes some of the themes explored in “Mostly Dead Things” is “The Sea of Tranquility” by Katja Millay. Both books delve into the complexities of loss, trauma, and healing, but while “The Sea of Tranquility” is a more introspective and character-driven novel, “Mostly Dead Things” uses humor and surrealism to tackle similar subject matter.

Comparison Table: “Mostly Dead Things” vs. “The Sea of Tranquility”

“Mostly Dead Things” “The Sea of Tranquility”
Genre Dark Comedy/Contemporary Fiction Young Adult/Contemporary Fiction
Themes Grief, family, sexuality, surrealism Loss, trauma, healing, self-discovery
Narrative Style Unconventional, nonlinear, humorous Introspective, character-driven, emotional
Main Characters Jessica, Brynn, Leslie Nastya, Josh, Drew
Writing Style Descriptive, witty, metaphorical Haunting, poetic, introspective
Emotional Impact Jarring, raw, cathartic Heartbreaking, poignant, uplifting

Note: The table above provides a brief comparison between two books that share some similarities with “Mostly Dead Things.” However, each book is unique and should be appreciated for its own merits.

Audience Recommendation

If you’re a fan of dark and quirky stories that explore complex interpersonal relationships, “Mostly Dead Things” by Kristen Arnett is the audiobook for you. With its captivating characters and thought-provoking themes, this audiobook is sure to entertain and engage.

Recommended for:

  • Fans of literary fiction with a touch of surrealism
  • Listeners who enjoy character-driven stories
  • Those interested in exploring themes such as grief, sexuality, and family dynamics

If you enjoyed “Mostly Dead Things,” you may also like:

Book Author Similarities
The Pisces Melissa Broder Exploration of sexuality and unconventional relationships
Tin Man Sarah Winman Emotional exploration of grief and loss
The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake Aimee Bender Surreal and imaginative storytelling

Impact and Legacy

“Mostly Dead Things” has the potential to make a lasting impact on the literary world, becoming a classic in its genre. The audiobook showcases Kristen Arnett’s exceptional writing as well as the talent of the narrator, bringing the story to life and transporting listeners to a world full of emotions and struggles.

The legacy of “Mostly Dead Things” will likely include its contribution to discussions about grief, family dynamics, and sexuality. The book also captures the essence of life in Florida, making it relevant to those who reside in or have visited the Sunshine State.

As for potential adaptations, “Mostly Dead Things” could lend itself well to a television show or film, as the characters and conflicts are compelling and relatable.


In conclusion, “Mostly Dead Things” by Kristen Arnett is a haunting and evocative audiobook that explores the complexities of grief, family, and sexuality in a unique and thought-provoking way. Arnett’s writing style and narrative techniques create a vivid and immersive atmosphere that transports the reader into the heart of the story.

The character development in “Mostly Dead Things” is both nuanced and engaging, with the central characters undergoing profound transformations throughout the course of the book. The themes of the story are explored in a sensitive and thought-provoking way, raising important questions about identity, acceptance, and the nature of love.

Overall, “Mostly Dead Things” is a powerful and emotionally resonant audiobook that is sure to leave a lasting impact on readers. It is highly recommended to anyone who enjoys literary fiction, as well as those looking for a deep and meaningful exploration of the human experience.

If you’re searching for a moving and thought-provoking audiobook, “Mostly Dead Things” should definitely be on your list.


Is “Mostly Dead Things” by Kristen Arnett available as an audiobook?

Yes, “Mostly Dead Things” is available as an audiobook. You can find it on various audiobook platforms and retailers.

Who is the author of “Mostly Dead Things”?

Kristen Arnett is the author of “Mostly Dead Things.”

Can you provide a brief synopsis of “Mostly Dead Things”?

“Mostly Dead Things” follows Jessa-Lynn Morton, who takes over her family’s taxidermy business after her father’s suicide. As she navigates grief and complicated family dynamics, Jessa-Lynn’s relationships, including the tangled web with her brother and her father’s secret lover, unravel in unexpected ways.

How does Kristen Arnett create the atmosphere and setting in “Mostly Dead Things”?

Kristen Arnett skillfully crafts a unique atmosphere and setting in “Mostly Dead Things.” The vivid descriptions of the taxidermy shop and the Florida landscape evoke a sense of both beauty and decay, heightening the emotional intensity of the story.

How are the characters developed in “Mostly Dead Things”?

The characters in “Mostly Dead Things” undergo significant development throughout the story. Kristen Arnett delves into their motivations, struggles, and relationships, resulting in complex and multidimensional characters.

What is Kristen Arnett’s narrative style and writing technique in “Mostly Dead Things”?

Kristen Arnett’s narrative style in “Mostly Dead Things” is characterized by raw honesty and poetic prose. Her writing technique incorporates vivid dialogue, a non-linear structure, and rich descriptive language.

What are some of the major themes explored in “Mostly Dead Things”?

“Mostly Dead Things” explores themes of grief, family dynamics, sexuality, and the transformative power of art. Kristen Arnett skillfully weaves these themes into the narrative, making for a compelling and thought-provoking read.

How does “Mostly Dead Things” elicit emotional impact?

“Mostly Dead Things” deeply resonates with readers, evoking a range of emotions. Kristen Arnett’s exploration of loss, love, and vulnerability elicits a powerful emotional response and creates a lasting impact.

How is the narration in the audiobook version of “Mostly Dead Things”?

The audiobook version of “Mostly Dead Things” features excellent narration. The voice actor’s performance brings the story to life, with a well-paced and engaging delivery that enhances the overall listening experience.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of “Mostly Dead Things”?

“Mostly Dead Things” has numerous strengths, including its compelling characters, evocative writing style, and exploration of complex themes. However, some readers may find certain aspects of the story, such as its nonlinear structure, challenging to follow.

How does “Mostly Dead Things” compare to other works by Kristen Arnett or within the same genre?

“Mostly Dead Things” showcases Kristen Arnett’s distinctive voice and storytelling style. While it may share thematic similarities with her other works, it stands out with its exploration of taxidermy, grief, and family dynamics. It is a unique and memorable addition to the genre.

Who would enjoy reading “Mostly Dead Things”?

“Mostly Dead Things” is recommended for readers who appreciate character-driven narratives, evocative writing, and stories that delve into complex emotions. Fans of Kristen Arnett’s previous works or those interested in exploring themes of grief, family, or sexuality would also enjoy this book.

What could be the potential impact and legacy of “Mostly Dead Things”?

“Mostly Dead Things” has the potential to make a significant impact on the literary world. Its exploration of challenging themes and its unique storytelling approach could influence future works within the genre and contribute to important discussions surrounding grief, family dynamics, and identity.

What is the final verdict on “Mostly Dead Things”?

“Mostly Dead Things” is a beautifully written and emotionally resonant audiobook. Kristen Arnett’s skillful storytelling and complex characterization make it a standout work. It is highly recommended for those looking for a thought-provoking and immersive reading experience.

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