In this graphic memoir, a Midwestern preacher’s son loses his faith and discovers art.
Both the style and tone of this coming-of-age narrative sustain an engaging naïveté, even as the young son who is the author becomes a father himself, and the deceptively simple story encompasses three generations of male Browns, who may or may not discover the answers to life’s biggest questions in church. The creatively prolific Brown (Funny Misshapen Body, 2009, etc.) has extended his talents into film, animation and broadcasting (on NPR’s This American Life), and he also teaches comics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Yet there is nothing artistically flashy or academic in this understated, matter-of-fact memoir, which begins, in darkness leading to a glimmer of light (over six large panels): “When I was little, I believed in God. At least I think I did. At some point I realized that I didn’t believe. And I hadn’t in a long time. If ever. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in something bigger than myself.” Such an introduction leaves a lot of open space for interpretation, and the rest of the narrative, in panels not considerably larger than postage stamps, proceeds to fill in some of it, though by no means all. It’s a story of church, camps and missions, then college, art, museums, sexual awakening and fatherhood, where a son might receive different answers than the father, who is the author, received from his own father. Brown dedicates the memoir to his father and son, and love for both permeates the pages, where epiphanies are small, revelations conventional, and neither the artist nor the challenges he faces ever seem larger than life.
Intermittently engaging, but there are more questions than answers here.