Where does a young boy turn when his whole world suddenly disappears? What could change two brothers from an unstoppable team into a pair of bitterly estranged loners? How does the work of one middle-aged nurse reveal the scars of an entire community, and can anything heal the wounds caused by a century of deception?
Set in an imaginary version of Jeff Lemire’s hometown, ESSEX COUNTY is an intimate study of an eccentric farming community, and a tender meditation on family, memory, grief, secrets, and reconciliation. With the lush, expressive inking of a cartoonist at the height of his powers, Lemire draws us in and sets us free.
Apparently some folks have their panties in a bunch because a graphic novel has found its way onto this years Canada Reads panel. I mean, it’s a COMIC for God’s Sake! How can a lowly COMIC be considered literature. Well, I have two words for those folks: Read. It. Not the words you thought I was going to say, eh? Well, this is a PG13 blog.
From the first panel I was sucked into the lives and stories of Essex County. I’ve read a few graphic novels before, but this is the first one that literally took my breath away. I am now convinced that Jeff Lemire is a cartooning, story-telling Canadian God. Seriously. I was dumb-founded by how beautiful this book was. And I don’t give a rat’s ass what snooty literary folk say: Essex County is not only Canadian literature, it’s Canadian literature at its best.
I loved how all three of the stories tied into each other, but also stood on their own. Novels where lives intertwine in unexpected and unknown ways have a special place in my heart. I love how what at first appears to be random turns out to not only have more structure, but more meaning. The idea that you could go into a store and buy a chocolate bar from someone who is an integral but unknown part of your life is amazing.
Of course, I can’t talk about Essex County without talking about the artistry behind it. I was blown away by the amount of emotion that Lemire could show in a single frame of a crow, or a silo or a man sitting at the kitchen table. No dialogue. No words. Yet it’s clear what’s going on in the story and the character’s mind. Those simple frames were stunning and moving. I never thought that a graphic novel could bring me to tears.
I loved Essex County. I loved the intertwining stories, the characters, the writing, the drawing. Hell, I even loved the thickness of the paper.
And as for you nay-sayers, well, isn’t Canada all about diversity and acceptance of things that are different from the norm? I think it’s high time the graphic novel made it’s way into Canada Reads. And Essex County, with it’s stories of loss, family and life in rural Canada is the perfect contender.