by Genevieve Castree (Top Shelf, 2012)

A coming-of-age memoir about growing up in a hugely dysfunctional family, Genevieve Castree's difficult but ultimately hopeful story about her struggle to become her own person is told in beautifully sparse, restrained, yet compelling drawings.

When you grow up in a home with adults who are not up to the responsibilities of parenting, you spend a lot of time doing two things: parenting yourself (poorly) and finding ways to escape. As a child, Goglu (her nickname) lived in her daydreams and drawings, her world composed of the drama created by her mother Amere's toxic relationships. Goglu's father, Tete d'Oeuf, is mostly absent and treats her like an unwelcome burden. Art and punk rock are her greatest refuges as she tries to make it to full, legal adulthood in one piece.

Yet her life is chaotic. There are brushes with suicide, bulimia and an unwanted pregnancy that threaten to drag her down. As she struggles to keep her head above the surface, she asks herself if her depressions and problems are conquerable or if they are part of her personality, her very identity.

The experiences are harrowing and the revelations are raw enough that at times it's quite depressing. This is not a book to read if you're feeling off or sad yourself; it's that evocative in terms of the raw nerves it touches. The sense of the haunting, inchoate sickness of her world is captured in the open spaces of the pages, free of panels, leaving the character literally floating in space as she drifts from one home to the next, one world to the next, yet remaining a total outsider in her own life. When Goglu finally comes to terms with her life and moves away from her mother at age 17, she reclaims her identity, or more accurately, forms it for perhaps the first time. For all Goglu has been through, what's felt most strongly at the end of the story is the wide open possibility of the future, one free of resentment and blame.

review by
Mary Harvey

21 February 2015

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