I am an avid consumer of all graphic novels, and I'm especially fond of biographical ones such as Harvey Pekar and Art Spiegelman. This book is up there with them. It is a brave story of what it is like to have a child who dies. Brave, because all the author's vulnerabilities are laid bare. We get an idea of how much and how long it hurts. But humour and love win out, shine through. Its a book with very difficult subject matter that is moving and enjoyable. Its a must-read for the biographical graphic novel fan and anyone interested in human nature.
Nicola Streeten's unflinching, tragi-comic confession is a Highway Code for the bereaved and their circle.
Words and pictures probe the open wound caused by the death of her two-year-old child. With a swift-flowing narrative, lively dialogue and vigorous, expressive drawings, Nicola has created, out of her own story, a universal manual dealing with the big, painful questions around death. Why do we grieve so long? Is there a league table of grief, with bereavement being allowed to outrank divorce or redundancy? Is the death of a child, which screams against nature, worse than any other death?
And what do you say to a bereaved person without sounding crass? Nicola likes: `I'm so sorry. If there's anything I can do, just say.' And doesn't like: `I can imagine what you're going through.'
After Billy's funeral, a neighbour knocks on the front door: `I'm so sorry I wasn't at Billy's funeral. I took the day off and everything but I didn't hear from you and I wasn't sure if it was OK for me to come.' Nicola looks out us and asks: `Why is funeral etiquette so unclear to us when death is as common as birthdays and marriage?'
Nicola has lost not only a child but an identity: `I'm not a mother. But I'm not NOT a mother. I don't have a script to follow any more.' To signify the mutation, she shaves her head.
Is the `You' of the title Nicola's partner John? Or is it you, the reader? It doesn't matter - everyone coping with their own or another's grief will recognise the emotional honesty of this ultimately consoling book, and find their own experiences reflected or their assumptions challenged.
My mother died in a cold month. When the spring flowers started to appear I wanted to shove their stupid little faces back into the earth. I wish I'd had this book then.
This was an interesting and honest look into the emotions that one person felt after losing her child. I appreciated the window the author gave into her world at that time. The graphic novel format worked well. It was quite an emotional read.