Stitches by David Small

6407014One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.

As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.

Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statement.

A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again. (shortened synopsis from Goodreads)

Rating: 8.5/10

This graphic novel was the truthful and painful story of a child growing up in a household filled with long silences and banging cabinets. At times it was hard to read. The loneliness that David felt as a child really comes out, not only in the words, but he illustrations as well. This is not just the story of a child who loses most of his ability to speak due to a complication during surgery, but someone who is only able to find solace in the books he reads and his imagination.

There were a couple places that brought me close to tears as he struggles with the idea that his mother may not love him, despite all he does to be a good son. Small doesn’t shy away from these intense emotions but instead depicts them in a way that is affecting but not melodramatic. He uses the perfect amount of subtlety in both wording and illustration that really hits home.

On top of all of this, David Small really leaves an impression with a brilliant ending that will come back to mind well after you are done reading it. Despite the sad content of the story, Small manages to end his memoir with a feeling of hope for his future, and this work alone is proof that he has been able to succeed doing what he has always had a passion for, despite his lonely childhood and lack of support from his family.

This book is a stunning example of graphic memoir on par with books like Persepolis. It’s a touching tale that was made even more affecting by the brilliance of David’s illustrations. I highly recommend this book and am really glad that I happened upon it while browsing the public library.


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