Monday, March 23, 2015

look at her go: reviewin' reviewin': mosquitoland

Name: Mosquitoland
Author: David Arnold
find it on goodreads
barnes & noble
synopsis: "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.

full review under the cut!

 "Life is more fictional than Fiction."

First of all, I just want to say that this book is fan-fucking-tastic. Seriously, I don't normally say things like that, but there's just no other way to describe the sheer awesomeness that is mosquitoland. I listened to most of this book on audible in the car on the five hour drive from my hometown back to university, and I was laughing out loud, to myself, in the empty car. It is funny, it is moving, the prose is so compelling, and I put this book on a pedestal right beside Jandy Nelson's I'll Give You The Sun, which, believe me, is the highest of praise. I really don't think there is anything that I disliked about this book. It was luminous and melancholy and made me want to look at the world differently. 

The pacing of this story was absolutely gorgeous. There were so many twists and turns, but they were built up to and introduced with elegance. In another such book, that many surprises would've felt messy in a book this size, but Arnold manages to pull it off perfectly. I think the trick of that was that he left many questions open-ended. Ahab's box, the cause of Mim's mother's fate, where in the world Walt came from, all of these questions weren't answered in the book, rather left to the imagination. And I absolutely loved it. This isn't a story that was meant to be wrapped up in a neat little bow – it's messy and sometimes gross, but that just means that it reflects life, true to itself. 

That being said, there are some parts of this book that are ridiculous. Poncho man, gay swimmer/gas station owner Ahab and his white whale of a boyfriend, even Sheriff Randy, all caricatures of real people, too strange to be true. But they are all described with a gusto and, with Mim's sardonic wit seeping through, brought to life. Arnold points out and sketches the absurdities of life ("remember the rendezvouski!") without turning derisive or satirical. It is as if he is saying "look around! you too are surrounded by the oddest and most wonderful of beings." 

And it is these beings, along with the entire cast of characters in this novel, that make it worth reading. Each one of these characters is lovingly laid out, no matter how minor, each with their gawky flaws and moments of shining heroism, whether they be hero or villain. There is a lot of talk from Mim about what separates a hero from a villain, and sometimes Mim thinks that it is nothing at all. However, in the end, it is when she comes to realize the importance of friends that she knows full well what separates her from Poncho Man and Caleb. The characters! They're so good! With Mim's voice, sarcastic and begrudgingly caring, they all sound like the best sort of people. From Arlene, grand dame of the old school, to Walt, the picture of innocence and childhood glee, to 17C, Beck Van Buren, the most wonderful of flawed photographers, to even Kathy, once-evil stepmother and Denny's afficiado. God, I loved them, and I love them still. 

Sprinkled throughout the insane adventures (a greyhound crash, a sociopath, getting detained in Independence, watching the cubs lose, etc) are real, tough issues. Mim hasn't had it easy, and though she wears her pain on her sleeve a little, there are parts of herself that she keeps hidden. This book deals with abuse, depression, schizophrenia, psychosis, acceptance, divorce, suicide, family, and love. It pretty much runs the gambit when it comes to personal issues, and that is why I believe anyone can relate to this story. Though our heroine, Mary Iris Malone, is deeply flawed, she is at least trying. And isn't that the most anyone can do?

This story is unbelievable, and I say that with no small amount of reverence. It is the book that you wish you could write, because you're sure that if you could just get something that beautiful onto paper, everything would be right. It is a kaleidoscopic journey through, well, life, and it is magically wrought with humor and wonder. I say, favorite book of 2015 so far, and a must read for everyone. 

1. "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." –pg. 41
2. "Sweet Arlene, the Queen Arete of my Odyssey, coils her veiny fingers around that wooden box in a death grip." –pg. 45
3. "Son of a Bitch, it was totally catastrophic!" –pg. 64
4. "Dear Isabel, A quick note: I don't think a vivid imagination is all it's cracked up to be. I'm quite certain you have one, but if not, thank the gods of born-with-gifts and move on. However, if you're cursed as I am with a love of storytelling and adventures in galaxies far far away, and mythical creatures from fictional lands who are more real to you than actual people with blood and bones – which is to say, people who exist– well, let me be the first to pass on my condolences. Because life is rarely what you imagine it would be." – pg. 85
5. "Have a vision, Mary, unclouded by fear" –pg. 100
6. "From a thousand metaphorical miles away, a sweet voice rings in my ears. You'd be surprised what I'd believe these days. Channeling the faith of Arlene – and with her precious wooden box strapped to my back – I step off the bus." –pg. 114
7. "Life is more fictional than fiction." – pg. 171
8. "But if Dr. Makundi, the Irish-Indian-bow-tie-wearing-grizzly-loving doctor himself had taught me anything, it was that our world could be astoundingly unrealistic." –pg. 172
9. "I guess I just think life is more mysterious than death." –pg. 228
10. "I'm done roaming hillsides. I've scoured the corners of the earth. And I've found my people. God, I'm almost jealous of myself." – pg. 251
11. "Looking at the handle on the toilet, I smile. Young Mim of Not So Long Ago, upon discovering the well of friendship to be completely tapped, found new friends, an ensemble cast of saviors." –pg. 315

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