Book review: Special exits: a graphic memoir by Joyce Farmer

   New genre graphic novels has been expanded lately to include graphic nonfiction. If you are still thinking that graphic means "sexually explicit," it is time to adjust.  Rather like the job title "graphic designer" for someone who designs publications and visual images, a graphic novel is a story told in pictures.  The old term was "comic book."  Not really sure why the new term took over, but language is like that. Nobody is shot with a "heater" anymore, now the perp is "packing," usually a "nine," that is, a nine-millimeter weapon. So, today, the comic book is a graphic novel.
    The book Special exits will be particularly poignant if you are struggling with elder care. For this truly is a memoir in pictures.  Based on the final years of Farmer's own parents, the book portrays the deep feelings and issues as well as the day-to-day difficulties of caring for one's aging loved ones.  Farmer doesn't forget the tiny defeats and failings, from the car accident to the telephone miscues to the dusty bedrooms. The intimate sharing that often occurs as one sits and listens to the reminiscences of the elderly slips in as naturally as the chronic coughing. Ancient secrets and happy childhoods are celebrated; painful traumas mourned.
    The volume contains some nudity as the daughter, Laura, cares for her stepmother, Rachel.  However, it is an essential part of the daily shocks and changes which occur, along with the laundry, the difficulty in bathing someone who is not ambulatory, and the weariness that the caretaking partner or child endures. Nor does Farmer forget the problems of maintaining an old house when the finances aren't abundant. In addition, Lars and Rachel have lived in this house as the neighborhood changed around them until it is no longer "safe." The love and support of friends and family give this book a warm glow even in the midst of the sadness, frailty and inevitable goodbyes. Try this book. ~Tessa

4 out of 5 stars

Huffington Post review here