I don’t normally title my reviews the same title as the book I read, but in this case there is nothing else to do. Mother, Come Home is a graphic novel by Paul Hornschemeier about a small boy, Tommy, and the suicides of both of his parents. His mother is so ill from cancer that she asks her husband to help her die, which he does. The emptiness and guilt he feels for killing his deeply loved wife eventually ends in his own suicide, which he commits in front of his small son. His son had come to rescue him from the hospital where he’s trying to recover from the loss and profound depression. The father signs himself out of the hospital and walks out with his son. They hold hands and run together. They go to a gas station and buy some food and makeshift camping gear, after which they spend the night together under a tree that shelters them from the rain.
The drawings are realistic and the handwriting is sometimes very tiny and hard to read. The colors are muted. I was struck by how Tommy was drawn. You could feel his feelings, his innocence, his sadness and his determination to take care of his father. He calls himself the groundskeeper, feeling his duty is to keep the grounds in good order, particularly his mother’s garden.
The book is deceptively simple. Hornschemeier writes straight from the heart, but without being maudlin or dramatically emotional. The story, told through Tommy’s eyes, is full of subtle details that create something bigger for the reader. I cried through the second half of the book, the kind of crying where you’re seeping tears and you feel like your heart will break.
This is the kind of book you want to read twice, which you can do in one sitting since it’s not terribly long or dense. When I was closing the book, I noticed a flash of red on the title page. I opened the book back up and stamped on the page was the word “DISCARDED.” I had bought the book used and apparently it was a library book that was culled from the stacks. It hurt me a bit to see that word on a book of such impact.