Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, copyright 2006.
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Source: Personal Collection – Purchased New
Reason for Reading: Recommended by Wallace
Fun Home first came to my attention by way of this review at Unputdownables. Wallace gave the novel a favourable review and being that I had never ventured into the foray of graphic novels and given that this is an LGBT themed memoir, I thought it was a pretty good choice to start me off.
Alison Bechdel grew up in a very emotionally closed family. Her father, a mortician and high school English teacher, ran an abusive household and had a sweet tooth for teenage boys. Growing up in the lethal atmosphere of this deranged funeral home, or the Fun Home as they came to call it, was less than conducive to the spirit of a growing child. Alison developed all sorts of issues, including OCD, as she struggled to come to terms with her own sexuality. When Alison finally came out to her parents in a letter from college, her relationship with her dad began to blossom and she thought that this was truly her opportunity to make peace with the man she had loved-to-hate until, two weeks later, he stepped in front of a tractor trailer.
“Struck by the coincidence, I counted out their lifespans. The same number of months, the same number of weeks…but [F. Scott] Fitzgerald lived three days longer. For a wild moment, I entertained the idea that my father had timed his death with this in mind, as some sort of deranged tribute. But that would only confirm that his death was not my fault. That, in fact, it had nothing to do with me at all. And I’m reluctant to let go of that last, tenuous bond.” Fun Home, pages 85-86.
This was a very touching, raw memoir and, I think, a healing opportunity for Bechdel to come to terms with the fact that her father did not commit suicide because of her. The story cuts deeply to expose the rigid, taught fibers of a poisoned heart and examines the psychological devastation caused when tender and open communication are lacking in familial relationships. It is a stark reminder that no family is perfect and that understanding our own families can take a lifetime of hurt and healing. Fun Home is well deserving of the endless accolades showered upon it since its 2006 debut.
The format of the novel was an excellent opportunity to offer some comic relief to what may have otherwise been an overly depressing memoir. This graphic novel formatting, however, was also the only thing with which I had a bit of a tough time. I never got into comic books when I was a kid and perhaps that is the reason that I found this difficult to read. Make no mistake, I loved the story, but I found the format really distracting. Reading and then stopping to soak in the graphic pain,s reading and then stopping again. I’m not sure if I really ever got used to it. Also, I felt as though the prevalence of pictures did something to take away from my reading experience in some sense. It’s nice to get an unobstructed view of what the characters and details of the setting actually looked like, but it also left me with a sense of loss. One of the fundamental elements of reading fiction is that the reader is left to visualize the details in his/her own mind; every novel is a slightly different experience for each reader. The graphic novel somehow steals that from the reader.
All in all though, the drawbacks of the format were not enough to put me off graphic novels, but I think they will perhaps be only an occasional read, when I feel the need for something different. Fun Home was certainly the right choice to help me get my feet wet; thanks Wallace for bringing the book to my attention.
RATING: Hard to Bleat