Imagine Wanting Only This

Pantheon. Apr. 2017. 288p. ISBN 9781101870839. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101870846. GRAPHIC MEMOIR
OrangeReviewStarAt first glance, ruins are romantic. Look again, and they often speak of pain and failure. In Imagine Only Wanting This, debuter Radtke explores all manner of devastation—the detritus of a youthful relationship, the aftermath of volcanic eruption, the hollowed-out shell of a church in deeply depressed Gary, IN. She remembers her favorite uncle, lost to a rare heart defect, and fears for her own heart, literally and figuratively. She recounts the story of a long-dead ancestor who implored, seemingly successfully, God's protection on her church during a massive firestorm in small-town Wisconsin by marching around the building's exterior, crucifix in hand. Beautifully written, this multidirectional memoir ties threads and minutiae from Radtke's personal and family history and history writ large to create a tender, drifting reflection on the calamity life is often built on, the nothing it will become, and the breathtaking beauty of lingering between those forgone conclusions. Her illustration abilities are somewhat stilted—she's a writer first and an illustrator second—but the art complements her flowing prose.
VERDICT A fantastic example of the graphic novel's possibilities as a literary medium, this work is visually imperfect, lyrically beautiful, and unquestionably brave. [See Prepub Alert, 10/24/16.]
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