Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review (with spoilers) -- "Stitches" by David Small

Five out of Five Stars

This is an amazing memoir, all told in graphic novel format.  As I sat in the floor of the bookstore reading (I just couldn't wait) I felt tears in the pit of my stomach.  I could empathize so much with what this child went through.

David's dad is a radiologist and X-rays David every time he has an illness, which is often because that's the only way David feels he can get any attention.  His mother is an angry, bitter woman whose voice, David says, is slamming things. 

His grandparents aren't much better.  He enjoys his grandfather, but his grandmother scares the hell out of him and you can certainly see where his mother got her particular brand of animosity.  Later in life, the grandmother locks the grandfather in the basement and sets the house on fire, then goes and dances in the street.  She's carted off to a psychiatric hospital, which David later proudly says he kept away from. 

The pivotal point in David's life is when one of his mother's friends notices a "growth" on the side of David's neck.  The wife of a surgeon, she makes David's mother promise to take him to see her husband right away.

David's parents are furious -- at David.  "Don't you know money doesn't grow on trees?" they scream, yet when they come into some money, rather than take David to the doctor, they buy a car and furniture.

Three years later, they finally take David to the hospital.  He has an operation, only to come out of it hearing he has to have ANOTHER operation the next day.  When he wakes again, he has a huge line of stitches down his neck, no thyroid, and half his vocal cords.  For now, until he learns how to use it, he's lost his voice.

Life doesn't get any better.  His parents don't really treat him any better, staying angry, bitter, and in a constant rage.  One night when David can't sleep, he opens his mother's desk and discovers a letter she was writing to his grandmother -- David had had cancer.

Eventually David gets therapy, and he's finally able to find his voice and truly be heard. 

The end -- he visits his mother in the hospital the day before she dies and, through the drawings, you can see a bit of closure.  His father takes him out one night and explains in agony that back when he gave David all those X-rays, the radiation used was much higher than it is now and he's the one that gave David cancer.

This book was so incredibly moving.  The drawings truly were perfect -- the expressions, the interpretation of dreams, the looks in people's eyes, couldn't have been conveyed with words.  The words he DOES include in the book are exactly the right ones -- spare, and necessary.

It's a tough book to read, but I'd recommend it highly.


Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She is the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.

1 comment:

  1. A mi me fascina leer! Acabo de encontrar este blog tuyo. No me habia percatado y ahora pretendo leerlo todo en una noche! Gracias por compartir tus impresiones!


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