A nurse’s gastrointestinal battle with dysentery is paired with the horrors of World War I trench warfare in this graphic novel.
It is 1916, and Annie, a white Australian nurse stationed in France, is tending to the wounded who come pouring in from the Western Front. But another fight, unbeknownst to her, is going on in her gastrointestinal tract. A wounded man she treats has bloody diarrhea that turns out to be dysentery. Annie is accidentally contaminated with the bacteria. How she gets infected is rather gross—but that’s this story’s strength. Blood, mucous, diarrhea, amputated limbs, death—it’s all here, presented in a frank way. While Annie’s story is fictional, the events of the war and the biology presented are fact, detailed further in extensive backmatter. The black-and-white illustrations tell it like it is—when Annie has diarrhea, she is shown sitting on the toilet. But it is the panels and storyline about the microbes that highlight both the illustrator’s and authors’ skills. The battle between the Shigella (dysentery-causing) bacteria and the many kinds of viruses, bacteroides, prevotella, and other microorganisms that Annie’s body activates to defend itself has the tension of an epic battle, and readers will alternately be gripped with anxiety (will the good microbes win?), filled with wonder at the amazing defenses of the human body, and grossed out (talking about you, mucous.)
Grossly fabulous. (map, historical and scientific information) (Graphic science/historical fiction. 12-16)