It Came From the NYPL
Written & Illustrated by Joyce Farmer
Published by Fantagraphics
So this book is, honestly, about as sad as you’re likely to find. In Special Exits, Joyce Farmer, via fictionalized alter ego Laura, takes readers on her father and stepmother’s final journey. The final four years of their lives, with all the inevitable health failings and physical and mental difficulties, unfolds for all to witness.
Farmer is a dense cartoonist, with often two or three word balloons per page, making for a heavy read, but a worthwhile one. They encounter many physiological, mental and emotional potholes along the way, so she can’t dally – clipped scenes of sponge baths, sleeping, unhealthy but easy to prepare meals, and Laura’s hundreds of small and large sacrifices inundate readers with the inescapable reality of her parents’ decline.
Yet, despite the sadness of it, Special Exits is not a despondent book. Truly, it’s a celebration, marked by adventurous memories of lives well lived, and good humor in the face in old age’s many inconveniences. Clinging to whatever pride he can maintain and smiling wryly when that bit of ego slips away, father Lars expresses a warmness and steadfast determination to live his life on his terms that readers can’t help but admire and appreciate.
Special Exits stands out at one of 2010’s best comic books, a fitting tribute to Joyce Farmer’s parents that tackles, head on, the heartbreaking inevitable process of losing ones’ parents. The result is one of the most human and most affecting comics of recent memory, and more than worth a trip to the local library.