Maine author Jesse McKinnell is releasing his first novel, “DEAD CATS and Other Reflections on Parenthood,” a dark comedy that raises serious questions about wealth, power and contemporary masculinity. 

Meet Joel Peterson, a Porsche-driving dentist who lives in the garage behind the lovely home he once shared with his wife and two young daughters. He’s in the doghouse because of a dead cat — the pet his girls adored. OK, it wasn’t an accident, even if he’s paying his lawyer $450 an hour to plead his innocence. He deliberately ran over the peacefully napping Friskers, followed by a gleeful fist pump, as little Ollie and her big sister Philly stood watching in horror. And that’s the least of Joel’s problems.

In “DEAD CATS And Other Reflections on Parenthood” (Shine Box Publishing, 2018), Jesse McKinnell introduces an unreliable, unhinged narrator grappling with the advantages and burdens of male privilege. Set in Maine, the story follows Joel’s downfall from upper-middle-class professional to penniless, unemployed, divorced and homeless.

Habitually numbed with lidocaine and weed, skilled at exploiting and torturing his patients with needless root canals, casually cruel to his wife, and comfortably detached from his daughters, Joel drives through life above it all — until, high on PCP, he crashes his Porsche and winds up battered and disgraced. As his lot turns from wealthy, privileged and pampered to wretched, Joel becomes increasingly distraught, desperate and delusional. At first, he commiserates with Friskers (yes, even lifeless, the cat listens and occasionally offers sensible advice). Then, he finds solace in a somber traveling companion: Kurt Cobain. With the help of the grunge legend’s ghost, Joel sets out to win back his ex-wife and kids. But first he has to overcome a few hurdles (aside from that restraining order): lack of money, the loss of his dignity and the sad fact that his family seems perfectly happy without him.

Jesse McKinnell grew up in Massachusetts but has lived peacefully in Maine for many years. On July 4, 2015, he had a dream about a dentist with a passion for writing sitcoms. Somehow, “DEAD CATS And Other Reflections on Parenthood” was the result. It is his first novel.

Maine author Jesse McKinnell

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