Book Review : “Mosquitoland“ By David Arnold

Book Review : “Mosquitoland“ By David Arnold

Valerie Capalbo, Staff Writer

Mim Malone, the headstrong narrator of David Ardnold’s “Mosquitoland” is not okay. After her parents divorce, Mim is plucked from her home and her life in northern Ohio and dragged to Mississippi. There she is forced to live with her Dad and unwanted new stepmother. Feeling like no one in the tragic wastelands of Mississippi could ever understand the complex inner workings of Mim Malone, she feels trapped and longs for the company of her beloved mother. However, the only communication she has with her mother since the move is through weekly letters. When the letters mysteriously stop coming, Mim senses her mother is in trouble. 

The story follows Mim’s inner thoughts through a series of letters to her unborn sister, as Mim travels from Ohio to Cleveland in hopes of making it to her mother for labor day. In an effort to spite her seemingly evil stepmother and her disinterested father, her disappearance comes as a surprise to them. Mim embarks on her journey, boarding a trusty Greyhound bus. Or so she thinks until the Greyhound blows a tire and tips over on the highway creating a scene of ruin and despair. Refusing to let anything stand in the way of getting to her mom by labor day, Mim ventures on. Against her better judgment, she boards a second Greyhound bus. While traveling on the second bus, she becomes irritable and tired of rubbing elbows with so many degenerate people. When the bus makes a stop in Graceland, she decides to ditch the bus and hitchhike the rest of the way. 

Hitchhiking seems like the most practical way to continue her one woman expedition, until she stumbles upon a homeless boy around her age with down syndrome, named Walt. They instantly become good friends. Despite their anatomical differences they share many moral similarities. Walt takes Mim to the unfortunate looking campsite that he has called home ever since his Dad left him after Walt’s mom passed away. Realizing that she can’t leave him behind, and also longing for some company, Mim adopts Walt as her travel companion. 

While attempting to buy an old beat up truck off of a strangers front lawn, Walt and Mim meet their next counterpart. A young man no older than 20 named Beck comes to their rescue after overhearing thier tragic negotiation over the purchase of the truck. On an expedition of his own headed in the same direction, Beck joins Mim and Walt, offering to drive since he is the only one with a license. The trio’s first stop is at the apartment of Beck’s former foster sister. The meeting doesn’t go how Beck had envisioned it, and the three leave shortly after arriving. With many stops and bumps along the long road to Mim’s mother, they make another pit stop at Mim’s childhood home. 

Kathy, Mim’s stepmother has been worried sick since Mim’s disappearance and figured Mim had probably ventured back to her old home. Kathy goes searching for Mim and finds her there. After an anticipated argument Kathy offers to bring Mim the rest of the way. Until this point Mim was unaware of her mothers condition. She knew that her mother was in some kind of distress and possibly ill, but it wasn’t until Kathy pulled into the parking lot of the rehab facility that she understood what was going on. On labor day, Mim was finally reunited with her mother. It was not the reunion she had envisioned, as her mother was in a very poor state, however it was what she needed. 

The book wraps up with Mim’s final letter to her unborn baby sister. She recaps her travels and everyone she has encountered along the way. She recounts the lessons she’s learned and her hopes for her sister’s future as well as her own. Her feelings of being hopeless and misunderstood at the beginning of the story are replaced with her sense of fulfillment and stability. She realizes that she might have been wrong about her stepmother all along and begins to form an unlikely bond. Mosquitoland is an intriguing novel about inter turmoil and the struggles that come with growing up. Arnold crafted a beautiful coming to age story with complex characters that a variety of readers can relate to.