North Country by Shane White

North Country is an illustrated autobiography of a challenging childhood lived in a milltown in upstate New York. It is written as a retrospective, full of philosophical musings and hindsight on why things ended up as they did – with understanding and perhaps forgiveness.

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Story: Shane’s father, a young out of work war vet, moves the family North for work. But a hard life has taken its toll on his father and he resorts to drinking and abuse as an outlet for frustrations. It’s a cascade of repercussions that distances Shane from his mother and affects his sense of self. As an adult on a return plane trip home after a many years absence, Shane reflects on the moments of his life that most affected him – parents, friends, and life lessons.

The story is poignant – it isn’t about a crazy twist at the end or a horrible life. His story is one of many similar across the US. What lends it its gravitas is the stream of consciousness remembrances and the perspective he gives them as an adult as he reminisces on the rocky flight home. The tone is languid and bittersweet, with a wonderful sense of pathos and resignation. It’s not an angry memoir nor an indictment on his parents (e.g., not a Mommy Dearest).

The illustration style is assured and almost sweetly nostalgic. Lines are clean and panels well considered. The graphic novel is full color but various segments are highlighted with a reserved palette.

It was a good read. I really like self contained original stories and this is a story well written for the graphic novel format.

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