ARC REVIEW: The Art of Taxidermy by Sharon Kernot

38581969Title: The Art of Taxidermy
Author: Sharon Kernot
Genre: Poetry
Release Date: August 29, 2019
Publisher: Text Publishing
Rating: ★★★
Spoilers?: No
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Lottie collects dead creatures and lovingly cares for them, hoping to preserve them, to save them from disintegration. Her father understands—Lottie has a scientific mind, he thinks. Her aunt wants it to stop, and she goes to cruel lengths to make sure it does.

And her mother? Lottie’s mother died long ago. And Lottie is searching for a way to be close to her.

The Art of Taxidermy is a heartbreaking verse novel exploring love and death, grief and beauty, and the ways we try to make sense of it all.

The Art of Taxidermy is a novel written in free verse about grief and loss and death, and its depiction of these topics is so raw and honest. There’s a lot of morbidity in this book–how could there not be when it’s about amateur taxidermy?–but ultimately it offers optimism and healing and the idea that life can come from death, in a way. The Art of Taxidermy is real and beautifully written.

One of the things I appreciated about this book is that it discusses the complexities of grief and how much it can twist your entire world upside down. After the death of her mother and sister, Lottie develops a morbid fascination with dead animals. It doesn’t stem from violence; it stems from her need to understand death.

There’s lots of interesting discussions of binary thinking in this book: masculinity vs. femininity, death vs. life, black vs. white, and the author tries to break these down through showing Lottie’s opposition to her aunt, who keeps trying to steer her away from her fascination with science and dead animals and onto more “girlish” things like sewing (but unknowingly gives her the tools to proceed in amateur taxidermy). Lottie gives life to dead animals through trying to preserve them. Also, her friendship with an Australian Aboriginal boy factors into this as well, but a he’s a minor character in the whole scheme of things.

Even though this book was beautifully written and raised a lot of interesting questions, I didn’t find myself interested in what was going on most of the time. A lot of the book seems repetitive–Lottie sees dead animals, brings them home, and her aunt gets angry at her and her father encourages her. While this is meant to show a longstanding fascination with death it gets tiring after a while.

All in all I think this is a well-written free-verse book that will probably be enjoyed by those who like poetry and words more than the plot and characters.

I revived them all.
Imagined them coming to life
with the magic of taxidermy,

which didn’t just preserve–
but brought them back
from the dead.

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