My journey to Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel was, to say was odd, but normal for me. I knew of Bechdel’s Dykes to Watch Out for series. I have the collection on my TBR list. And I knew that they had this book when it came out. The store I work at hosted an event. (July 2018 to be exact) I was interested in but forgot (long story why) to attend. Flash forward to about two months ago when I was speaking to someone about graphic novels, talking about the power of them and so forth. They mentioned Fun Home and that I should read it. A few weeks later I ran into a couple in the store and got talking books (as one tends to do in a bookstore and are a bookseller….) and I mentioned (for some reason) MAUS and the wife said she enjoyed it and had I read Fun Home? I knew that the Reading Fates were telling me to find a copy and read!
As I was paying at the register (I knew I’d want to keep this copy) a coworker asked me if I had seen the play (A PLAY? Would the crazy never stop? NOW I have to find a way to see a play….). I finally get home and start to read. I finished quickly enough (with breaks a couple of days, with none I would have finished in a few hours) and my takeaway is that this is the author’s letter to themselves and their family. It is especially to her father about the influence he had on them and especially her. Something I was not really able to put into words was best said in a Goodreads review by a user call Jeanie P. “it felt less like it was created for an audience and more like Bechdel was using her art to make sense of her relationship with her father.” It is that, but it is also more. Bechdel’s illustrative style is there, but at the same time, I did not see what I associate with them. The book is an experience and the art takes you on this journey in ways the text cannot. When words fail, the art talks, but the text is saying a lot to begin with. Bechdel does not shy away from the truth no matter how ugly (or even beautiful ugly) it might be.
To tell the plot is to tell the whole story. It is life and it is death. It is about love, lust and hate. Bechdel follows her memories as if they were writing in their journal (and journals play a part; books play a part; sex, drugs and rock-and-roll play a part!). They talk about how they see and feel the world around them. They talk about the secrets that they have, the secrets they know and the secrets they assume. They show how the “perfect outside” (her family home, her parents’ images, her parents friends’ images) might have a storm inside. And sometimes a storm outside can cleanse things or destroy them even more.