Keeping Two

Fantagraphics. Apr. 2022. 316p. ISBN 9781683965183. $29.99. GRAPHIC NOVELS
A couple stuck in traffic on a road trip pass the time reading aloud to one another from a novel about young newlyweds whose relationship unravels after the death of their child. They put the book aside upon arriving home, where they fall into a bitter argument that only ends when the woman leaves to run an errand. As the man awaits her return, he begins to worry she may have abandoned him. Or what if she’s been kidnapped? Or killed in an accident? Soon he’s flashing between romantic memories from the past, dwelling on old resentments, longing for reconciliation, and dreading a future without her. Crane (The Clouds Above) exhibits virtuosic mastery of sequential narrative and page design, seamlessly shifting through time and space and layers of reality to capture his protagonist’s increasingly frantic stream of consciousness. The effect is occasionally nerve-wracking, but brilliantly effective; tales so interior rarely deliver such visceral impact.
VERDICT Crane’s magnum opus is a stylistically adventurous evocation of how fear and grief create barriers to genuine intimacy. Not to be missed.
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