HMH Bks. May 2021. 240p. ISBN 9780358345541. $28. GRAPHIC NOVELS
DEBUT Nick Moss drifts through life mystified by human interaction, which he views as a kind of choreographed dance between pretenders. His attempts at small talk with his neighbors are awkward at best; conversations with family members barely dip below surface-level pleasantries. He meets a feisty, funny oncologist named Wren, and the two seem to hit it off wonderfully—but he still feels nothing. After an unexpectedly sincere conversation with a plumber leaves him shaken and overwhelmed with emotion, Nick begins to experiment with “saying stuff that matters.” Soon he begins to understand that other people have identities separate from his relationship to them—a lesson that only deepens when a family member’s health falters. McPhail has a fantastic sense of the absurd (he describes a café as “not so much a coffee shop as it is a vision of what your life would be if you were happy”) and an incredible knack for visually expressing his characters’ inner lives by mixing black and white illustration with fully painted sequences that capture his protagonists’ evolving emotional states.
VERDICT This exploration of the isolation brought on by self-absorption is occasionally dark, but ultimately deeply moving and profound.
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