Although I would like to consider myself an avid reader, I am not. It’s not because I don’t want to be, but more because of my time constraints. It seems that the time Mr. ShuGar and I dedicate to reading inevitably is before bedtime and, nine times out of ten, I will fall asleep after reading the first sentence or two. I am one of those people who has to read sitting up in a chair (or sofa) during the day. Of course, this characteristic severly restricts my reading time.
I am so excited that I am now officially part of a book club comprised of a few close friends. Now I can blog about my book club readings! As an official member of this club, it forces me to sit down and make time to read. I love this! Plus, we give ourselves plenty of time to read the designated book, which for this first round was Blankets by Craig Thompson. Mr. ShuGar and I, as hosts for the first book club meeting, had a lot of fun thinking of ways to tie the theme of Blankets into the food, activities and questions for our fellow bookies.
I know I am currently late in the game with the whole graphic novel movement, but I am really enjoying this writing medium. If illustrated and written in the right way, graphic novels can really enhance the words on a page, more so than the traditional book format. It’s like a more elaborate movie storyboard where you still rely on your imagination, but the pictures make the words three dimensional. By far, my favorite graphic novel is Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis.
Blankets is Thompson’s autobiographical coming-of-age story of two teenagers, both from dysfunctional, Christian Evangelical families, who meet in Bible camp and fall in love. But, it is deeper than a cliché love story; The novel explores the complexities of sibling and parental relationships, spirituality, sexual abuse and identity development.
Craig and his younger brother Phil live in a poor, rural part of Wisconsin where their entertainment as children consists of exploring the vast fields of snow and playing games in the bed they share. Even though Craig and Phil fight with each other, typical of many siblings, they are also bound by a childhood comprised of strict and emotionally abusive parents, sexual abuse by a babysitter and their mutual refuge in drawing.
During one of his Bible camping trips, Craig meets Raina, a teenage girl wounded by her parents’ impending divorce and other family obligations. The two instantly connect and they begin a heart-warming relationship that explores their sexuality and first love.
The illustrations depicting Craig and Raina’s courtship are so intricate and truly reflect the beauty of their love. There is a sadness in Thompson’s tone as ultimately his love story is a tragic one, like many first loves. The novel captures the spirit of the author’s agony as he learns love can be fleeting and finite. The imagery of Craig surrounded by blankets of snow needs no words; It captures the isolation and loneliness Craig battles throughout most of his life. He always feels like an outsider and Raina is the only one that makes him feel wanted.
I was especially moved with the theme of blankets – the blanket Craig and Phil shared in their bed, the quilt Raina made for Craig and the blankets of snow used as the backdrop for much of the novel. A blanket conjures up feelings of warmth, security and closeness. We use blankets to protect ourselves from the elements, but we also use them to share intimate moments with people. My sister and I, much like Craig and Phil, shared the same bedroom and would play with our blankets all the time. Many families have blankets that are heirloom passed down through the generations. In my parents’ house, we have a blanket from my Abuelito who is no longer with us. Even though he is gone, each fiber of this blanket contains his spirit and his love for us.
The novel ends with this beautiful line:
How satisfying it is to leave a mark
on a blank surface. To make a map of my movement
no matter how temporary.
This is life – a series of movements we make, some temporary and some permanent, which leave marks on our souls. Even though your (first) love story ends, it melts into part of your identity and shapes your life. Craig and Raina learn the pain of letting go, but they also gain insight as to who they are. I give this graphic novel 3 1/2 hearts out of 4 hearts. I highly recommend Blankets because anyone can relate to a story of love and loss, no matter how temporary it may be.