Page 45 Review by Jonathan
"Help! Why am I here taking care of my grandparents by myself!? Maybe I'll get novovirus and they'll airlift us out!"
That is a very good question. Why is Lucy looking after Alzheimic, nonagenarian grandparents on - of all the potentially hazardous places - a cruise ship around the Caribbean by herself?
Leaving aside the answer to that question for a moment, what I do know is that this scenario makes for great comics! This is definitely my favourite Lucy Knisley work so far, it really did make me chuckle and shake my head in disbelief throughout. You might not think escorting elderly relatives on holiday has much potential for drama but, believe you me, you'd be very wrong.
It does slightly beggar belief that her family have let her take sole charge of what everyone believes will be Phyllis & Allen's last holiday. And you do definitely get the impression everyone is absolutely delighted they haven't got the responsibility of making sure said holiday isn't the actual reason for their demise. Phyllis' Alzheimer's is by any standards pretty severe indeed, with her barely being able to remember where she is from one moment to the next, and whilst Allen is more compus mentis, his frequent bouts of incontinence, and his lack of concern regarding them, present their own challenges. Indeed, you might think a member of the family would have voiced the opinion that a holiday destination with the immediate and ever-present danger of falling overboard and drowning might not be the best choice...
It certainly means Lucy is kept on her toes and that continuous sense of stress she has to endure provides the perfect backdrop for some rather touching and tender moments of connection with her grandparents, plus her reminiscences regarding her grandparents' younger days and their place in her own childhood. That sense of love shining through the drudgery of duty certainly comes through strongly, and it's clear that whilst Lucy doesn't exactly get to enjoy her vacation, she does appreciate the chance to spend some genuine extended quality time alone with her grandparents, probably for the last time.
Nice to see that this work is in full colour, too, as we only had flashes of it in her last work, AGE OF LICENCE. She has a lovely, delicate, precise art style that looks really clean and simple, but I am sure is rather difficult to execute with such panache. I think the truism of less is more certainly applies with illustration, as you have absolutely nowhere to hide if your drawing abilities are not of the highest standard. I also loved how each chapter heading, one for each day of the holiday, is just a full page of waves, different every time, mind you. It seems highly appropriate for what I am sure felt like an endless perpetual motion endurance test of a vacation at times. Happily, it's much more fun for us to read.