Glamour contributing editor Sandell specializes in celebrity profiles and personal essays, yet as she documents in this narrative, many of those she profiled found her story far more interesting than their own—and no wonder.
Her candid work is not particularly notable as a graphic memoir—the art has a childlike innocence but is otherwise unremarkable. It bears closer kinship to Mary Karr’s classic The Liars’ Club (1995) in its portrait of the lasting effects of a disorienting childhood. Sandell initially worshipped her Argentine father, then came to distrust him on practically every level. She chronicles her struggle to free herself from his psychological pull in order to become a fully functioning human being. The memoir opens with her as a girl accepting everything her father told her: about his genius, about his mysterious multiple identities, about the academic jobs he left for ones that didn’t seem quite as good. Yet she wondered why he received mail in various names and stopped delivery when he was gone for even a day or two, and why she often picked up the phone to hear someone asking for a name she didn’t know. Even scarier was the sense that her father was perhaps turning her into a bit of an imposter herself. She began to distance herself from him in adolescence and early adulthood, but the damage had been done. Unable to have a fulfilling relationship with a man, she toyed with lesbianism. She became increasingly alcoholic and addicted to Ambien, conducting both her professional and personal lives in a sort of functioning numbness that she eventually realized was mostly numb and not so much functioning. A romantic relationship that she did her best to sabotage and further inquiry into the truth about her father’s life—which he did his best to sabotage—finally led her to recovery.
A revealing, powerfully strange graphic memoir.