$20.99 / 320 pages
Look Again is a mystery involving a death told through six variations by Elizabeth Trembley. It is not a typical mystery story one would expect from a writer of the genre, one with which Trembley is familiar, having written several novels under the Josie Gordon pen name. One morning many years ago Trembley discovered a dead man’s body moments after taking her dogs for a walk on a wooded park trail outside of town. The mystery is not the man’s death, as tragic as it was. Rather, the mystery told here is about the ways Trembley reacted as she did that day and the days that immediately followed. Consider Trembley not only as the detective but as the person who figuratively buried the very clues necessary to solve the matter.
Dense, layered, nuanced, and deeply personal are all descriptive words that apply here. They also seem a bit trite considering the psychological landscape Trembley lays bare as she pokes and prods at trying to put back together memory fragments of the experience over the course of twenty years. Each new effort revealing new facts, a memory of a terrifying incident from childhood, or insights into how our brains process information when confronted by traumatic ordeals.
Trembley’s work to replicate her emotions that morning is brutally successful. The reader is thrown off kilter almost immediatey as the panels go from illustrating the first peaceful moments in the park to the art transforming into menacing white lines on fields of black with jagged or amorphous shapes, at times unbound by panel borders and other times engulfing the page. Each shape and panel encapsulating a visual detail or a terrifying thought or reaction leading up to what Trembley later called the “lost afternoon” when her consciousness went blank. While the emotional pacing shifts as time and circumstance change — from detachment to anger to calm to shame and points in between while punctuated with a trio of avatars representing Trembley’s conflicting internal monologs — Trembley’s hold on the reader lingers after the last page is read. Or perhaps I’ve been “too sensitive” and made connections with Trembley where none exist, as Trembley’s psychologist father attempts to remind her on more than one occasion. Isn’t making a connection with others one of the purposes of storytelling though? Truthfully, I can be too sensitive and was making connections even before Trembley recounted in a later segment a stranger danger incident she buried in her subconscious mind. The first time I recall being hooked in a similar way with a graphic novel is while reading Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. Trembley’s Look Again may be the orange to Fun Home’s apple but each author unflinchingly explores their emotional psyche.
Look Again A Memoir was released on September 20th. Check your local comic shop or book store for Look Again A Memoir. Comicshoplocator can help you find a comic shop or ask your local book store to order a copy using the ISBN9781951491185. You can also use Bookshop and Indiebound to buy or find copies in a store near you. If all else fails or you prefer, copies may be purchased from Amazon.