White combines memoir with a graphic-novel format in the story of a painful childhood.
North Country neighbors the Great Lakes, alongside the St. Lawrence River. White grew up there, in an abusive household where his parents, young and largely overwhelmed with the responsibilities of building a family with limited finances, took their frustrations out on their children. This tension-fraught work is relayed from the points of view of White as a child and as an adult. As the story opens, White is an adult returning to visit his parents and see his sister’s newborn baby. Anxious, afraid to fly, he immediately begins to recall bad childhood memories: the time he ran away from home, the time his father stood over him threateningly with a ruler when he was learning to tie his shoes, the time his father threw a knife at his mother during an argument, the time his mother hit him with the vacuum hose for spilling dirt on the carpet. After a turbulent airplane ride, White returns home, where he greets his parents (albeit reluctantly) and welcomes his sister’s baby. The awkward reunion yields White’s best illustrations. The final panel, depicting a young White running toward a setting sun, is as cheerful as this story gets.
A dark, foreboding narrative whose style pays tribute to Robert McCloskey and 1950s Superman comics.