If you had asked me a few months ago if I thought a graphic novel could break my heart, I would have said no. That was until I brought home my bosses copy of Essex County, by Canadian artist and writer, Jeff Lemire. A contender for last years Canada Reads, Essex County is a collection of three stories, all told in graphic novel format. Though each story is separate, they tie together some of the same characters at different points in their lives.
The first story, Tales from the Farm introduces us to a young boy, who has lost his mother and never knew his father. Living with his uncle, who knows nothing about how to raise a child, the boy escapes into his imagination, where he is a superhero, as means of finding solace. The second story, entitled Ghost Stories, tells the heartbreaking and haunting tale of two brothers, whose relationship is strained by one terrible mistake. And finally, the third story, The Country Nurse, illustrates the life of a devoted nurse who places the happiness and comfort of others before her own. All stories take place against the backdrop of the small Canadian farm town.
The honesty that radiates from this tender, touching and beautifully drawn book is stunning. After hearing such wonderful praise from my coworkers, I took this home on a cool fall evening. With the intention of reading one story before bed, I propped up my pillow and began. Two hours later, I closed the cover, feeling as though my heart had swelled in my chest. This is a very special book; not just because it is wonderfully written or illustrated with such precision, but also for the exquisite commentary on rural Canadian life. Jeff Lemire’s Essex County is a must-read for all. I also can’t wait to get my hands on a copy of Jeff’s new book, The Underwater Welder, in stores now!