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|Written by Agnes Cadieux|
|Friday, 22 January 2010 00:00|
When we see literature about mental illness, it is usually about the darkest sides of the condition. We are used to bearing witness to the suicide, the outbreaks, the withdrawal, but rarely is a book written to show the everyday of these diseases. That is what Von Allen's graphic novel The Road to God Knows . . . is all about: the everyday.
Allen plunges his readers into 141 pages of a teenage girl's struggles with her mother's schizophrenia. Through his art and dialogue we uncover a slice of reality the rest of society is often unaware of, and slowly the reader begins to realize that within the shadows of regular everyday routine, the world is not always a friendly place.
Allen's main character, Marie, is a typical teen with a dark secret. Between school, trying to raise money for tickets to see a wrestling match and hanging around with her friend, it is obvious she is trying to lead a normal life. But through subtleties in her dialogue and brief snippets into her mom's illness, you begin to realize that there is no such thing as normal for Marie. Through most of the story, she is left to her own devices while her mother copes with uncontrollable moods. The awkward scenarios play out quite well, and the tension can be felt when Marie struggles with her mother's denial about her illness. As the book continues, it becomes clear that Marie's mother is worsening, and we finally get a glimpse at the fear and uncertainty that Marie is living with.
The book was a quick read with an interesting build-up, but I was a little disappointed with the end. Although Marie's mother was released from the hospital again, I felt the conclusion was somewhat abrupt. I would have liked to seen it wrapped up a little better -- not necessarily a resolution, considering this is a mere snippet into the life of someone living with mental illness, but just an ending to this particular episode.
Overall, the art was genuine, and the dialogue easy to follow. I liked the tie-ins with Ottawa, and even though names of places were changed and structures altered, it was evident this is a hometown story. The Road to God Knows . . . is a delightfully unexpected novel that bypasses the glitz and stigma of mental illness and offers its readers a true glimpse at what so many Canadians face everyday.
Tags: books, graphic novel, liberation, mental illness, ottawa, review, the road to god knows, von allen