Sunday, August 23, 2015
Review: Mosquitoland by David Arnold
Author: David Arnold
Published Date: 8 September 2015
Buy: Amazon | The Book Depository | Dymocks Australia
I received this book through NetGalley from Hachette Australia/Headline for review.
"I am a collection of oddities, a circus of neurons and electrons: my heart is the ringmaster, my soul is the trapeze artist, and the world is my audience. It sounds strange because it is, and it is, because I am strange."
After the sudden collapse of her family, Mim Malone is dragged from her home in northern Ohio to the "wastelands" of Mississippi, where she lives in a medicated milieu with her dad and new stepmom. Before the dust has a chance to settle, she learns her mother is sick back in Cleveland.
So she ditches her new life and hops aboard a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and her real mother, meeting a quirky cast of fellow travelers along the way. But when her thousand-mile journey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane.
Told in an unforgettable, kaleidoscopic voice, "Mosquitoland" is a modern American odyssey, as hilarious as it is heartbreaking. (summary from Goodreads)
Mosquitoland is one heck of an eccentric journey full of everything life throws at us.
And I do mean everything. Well, pretty close to it, it felt like. There's certainly a few things to this book I wasn't quite expecting but I truly enjoyed. Mosquitoland alternates between Mim's present and the letters she writes to someone called Iz that fill in the blanks of Mim's past for us. It makes for an engaging read as we put the pieces of the puzzle together, and Mosquitoland did not go the way I thought it might so it's a surprising read too. Seriously, there are some really "WTF?!" moments. What I loved most about this book is that Mim's journey of self-discovery isn't entirely personal. Not just about her, I mean. For me, the message of this story is that everyone is messed up. Everyone is dealing with their own things, their own stories and issues, their own journeys to find their place in the world and Arnold shows this in the best and worst ways. Every detour, every character Mim meets, offers a lesson and opens her eyes that little bit more. It's horrific and heartbreaking, beautiful and hilarious, and every moment had me reacting. Also really well done is that Arnold layers this all with questions of Mim's stability. Is she "crazy" or not? Is she having delusions or not? Mim believes she's not as mentally ill as her father thinks she is and throughout the story Arnold clearly argues both sides. This is the kind of book to keep you thinking.
Arnold has created some seriously memorable characters here. From the lovely to the kooky to the creepy, every one of them makes this story what it is. But Mim provides the voice and what a voice it is. Mim is as quirky as all the other characters, witty and forthright, and oh so broken - but fighting all the way. All of Mim's truths and all the truths she learns make for an honest and deep read. Her relationships with Walt and Beck had me grinning and flailing. My heart, it was all a-flutter at how adorable they were. The connection between them just surges off of the page. This had me truly invested in Mosquitoland and as the story builds to its finish I was a bit of a wreck waiting to find out where they'd end up. I will say though that there were times that Mim and Beck's treatment of Walt, who has Down Syndrome, is a little patronizing. Here and there it would just pull me up as I thought "oh, come on now!" but there really is a beautiful and emotional depth to their friendship, and overall it's that that shines.
Mosquitoland is an oddball of a read that is hard-hitting and ultimately joyful.