I’ll be the first person to say that I’m not a big reader of graphic novels, my understanding of the genre is few and far between, but I’ve heard so many great things about Jeff Lemire’s “Essex County“, I knew I would have to bite the bullet and read it. I was not disappointed, not in the slightest. All 510 pages are filled with the small town of Essex county, a small farm community that introduces us to characters over a span of years.
There are three stories in “Essex County” but they all weave together in an intricate and intelligent way. There were a couple of times when I thought I might have to pull out a pen and paper and start to navigate how everyone was connected, but alas Lemire does that for us too in the end.
We hear the story of a young boy that has just lost his Mother to cancer, two brothers that love hockey, but get disconnected for years and a nurse that is someone involved in everyone’s lives, while dealing with her own grievances. Each character has such a raw, realistic personality that I found myself comparing each of them to people I know in my hometown.
I think the best way to describe this wonderful story is by referring to a part of the introduction written by Darwyn Cooke. He explains,
While “Essex County” is laced with sentiment, it all seems natural and hard-earned. Lemire has either cannily or intuitively avoided the pitfall of many far more celebrated cartoonists; the pitfall of self-pity. Many of our best cartoonists have a conflated sense of their own suffering and isolation, and large passages of their work seem engineered to give this type of self absorption a heroic context. Lemire’s characters weather their lives with resolution and quiet despair. We feel for them because of Lemire’s talent for revealing their inner strength, not their outer weakness. In “Tales from the Farm”, our cast are people trapped in a life they didn’t ask for or expect. Lester, Kenny and Jimmy are all caught in a stasis brought about by external forces they couldn’t foresee or control. It seems their only substantive way forward is to endure and abide. The road out of the woods is laid stone by quiet stone.
There is no better way to describe the talented voice of Jeff Lemire. I suggest that you all go pick up this book and read it immediately, you will NOT be disappointed.
Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel “Essex County” is currently in the running for CBC Canada Reads competition that will be taking place on February 7th, 8th and 9th.