Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett (Tin House Books, 2019)
Reviewed by Emily Nelson
Florida has a pretty brutal reputation. Between the ghastly riches of the Florida Man meme to Marco Rubio, there’s definitely more than a few reasons that a decent portion of the U.S. sees it as the embarrassing Drunk Uncle of the states. But if Kristen Arnett has anything to say about it, Florida is on the come up — at least, as far as literature is concerned. Her debut novel, Mostly Dead Things, is as much a love letter to her state of residence as it is a darkly sweet story of grief and growth in a family of taxidermists. Arnett, a darling of Literary Twitter for her dispatches on working as a librarian and her dedication to convenience stores (her Twitter bio declares her a “7-Eleven Scholar”), creates in Mostly Dead Things a universe conjured from swamp magic and sweat, something gritty and wild and aggressively real that makes it instantly unforgettable.
Take Me With You, Wherever You’re Going by Jessica Jacobs (Four Way Books, 2019)
Reviewed by Risa Denenberg
To read Jessica Jacobs’ newest poetry collection, Take Me with You, Wherever You’re Going (Four Way Books, 2019) is to start out where she began in her first collection, Pelvis with Distance (White Pine Press, 2015; winner of the New Mexico Book Award in Poetry) and left off in In Whatever Light Left to Us (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2016). Each book in this trilogy performs an aria of lesbian love and lesbian sexuality that earns its encore.
Sunshine State by Sarah Gerard (HarperCollins, 2017)
Sarah Gerard’s collection of essays Sunshine State reads as an ode to the living, breathing juxtaposition that is the state of Florida. In her essays (some personal, some journalistic, some a hybrid of the two) she has her authorial finger on the pulse of the people who live there. She manages to trace the dreams the state breeds, but also pokes holes in these dreams effortlessly and gorgeously, revealing in the process imperfect portraits of humanity trying its best to grapple with The American Dream. Continue reading
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell (Alfred A. Knopff, 2006)
In an interview for The Missouri Review (2013), fiction author Karen Russell was asked about her life in Florida and how it has influenced several of her works. She replied by referring to a “matter –of– fact strangeness” that her native state seems to possess. Continue reading