Reading Level: Adult
Genre: Graphic Novel/Auto-Biography
Size: 232 pages
Publisher: Mariner Books
Release Date: June 5, 2007
Stand Alone or Series: Stand Alone
Rating: 5/5 stars
I have wanted to read this graphic novel for a long time. It just sounded so interesting and it was very interesting. It’s incredibly well done, very funny, emotionally engaging, and full of interesting literary references.
This is an autobiographical novel by Bechdel and it was incredibly engaging and well done. Alison lives with her interior decorating obsessed father. Her father is also manic-depressive and a closet gay man. As you can imagine the marriage between Alison’s father and mother is very strained. To add to the macabre humor of it all Alison’s father owns and runs a funeral home which they call the “Fun Home”.
The book bounces between a number of times in Alison’s life. From when she was a child to an adult and back to a child. It is mainly told as a reflection of her growing up with her father after she hears about his death. She thinks about the many things she saw him doing as a child that she didn’t really understand until she got older.
Woven through all of this story is Alison’s own realization that she is a lesbian and what that confession did (or didn’t do) to her family. You get to watch as Alison’s dad struggles to form her into the perfect girl that he could never be (and Alison never wanted to be) and as Alison’s dad sneaks off for secret liaisons with other men.
The story takes place in a rural and very non-tolerant town in Pennsylvania mainly in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Bits and pieces of the history of era are woven throughout the story.
Alison’s father also had a deep love for literature, which Alison herself develops as she gets older. This provides a bridge between Alison and her father, we also get to read a lot of literature references throughout the story that have meaning to our characters’ lives.
This is a book that is easy to read and at first seems a bit meandering, but it is also incredibly thought-provoking. It does an excellent job of making you look on and reflect on your own life. I especially enjoyed how the characters’ feelings for each other ebb and flow and they go from understanding and relating to each other to hating each other. The whole thing just captures family dynamics very well (if a bit more dramatically than most families).
The drawing throughout is very well done. It’s a fairly simple style interspersed with some very detailed lifelike drawings. I pretty much read the whole book in one sitting and loved the way it ended.
This is one of those very complex and emotional novels that will make you laugh, cry, wonder and consider how society influences relationships. It’s very masterfully done and was impossible to put down.
Overall a very masterfully done graphic novel autobiography. Really I have never read anything like this before. I highly recommend it. I would recommend for older teen or adult only, there are some graphic sex scenes and discussion about sex. I bet this is one of those books they are recommending for GLBT classes in college…there is just so much in here to discuss and think about.