What Strange Creatures by Emily Arsenault
Morrow • $14.99 • ISBN 9780062283238
Published July 22, 2014
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In Emily Arsenault's often hilarious What Strange Creatures, Theresa is stuck in a rut. A perpetual thesis candidate, she's had a string of bad breakups, is trapped in a soul-sucking job as a copywriter at a candle company and is concerned she's turning into a crazy cat lady. And now, her brother's flaky girlfriend, Kim, has left her with her overweight and forever-barking puggle.
But her world is shaken up in the most disastrous of ways when Kim's body is found in the woods. Her sweet, smart and troubled brother, Jeff, is the prime suspect, and Theresa knows he had nothing to do with it. Yet, as she follows the bizarre trail of lies and political scandal Kim left behind, she begins to worry. Has love caused her turn to a blind eye to her brother's increasingly worrisome issues?
A well-crafted mystery, What Strange Creatures
is also an exploration of familial love and the way others perceive us. The first-person narrative allows the reader to follow Theresa's heartbreaking struggle to keep her doubt in Jeff's innocence, as well as her very typical mid-30s existential insecurities, at bay. And truly, I did not see this conclusion of this murder mystery coming.
What are you supposed to do on the second night your brother is in jail on a murder charge?
Should you watch The Colbert Report? Should you clean the black crud from behind your kitchen faucet? Should you make yourself a smoothie with protein powder?
I did all of these things trying to forget the prosecutor's words: Her body was found in a wooded area, about ten yards from the side of Highway 114. According to autopsy reports, she died of strangulation and also had a deep wound in her upper left thigh, consistent with assault using a screw-driver or scissors.
But what was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to settle into the situation and practice saying things like, "Jeff? You didn't hear? He's in the clink. Homicide." Or in reminiscent fashion, with a long, throaty cough and the resigned wave of a cigarette: "Back when Jeff was still on the outside . . ."
Probably I wouldn't need to practice. Probably one grows used to saying these things, as the first nights turn into first weeks, then months and years.
What are you reading?