Kettle Harbour

Conundrum Pr. May 2023. 264p. ISBN 9781772620832. pap. $25. F
DEBUT This literary graphic novel is at once lithe, lyrical, vulnerable, and seething. As the book begins, Andrea, a sullen young woman, returns to her grandparents’ home in the seaside town of Kettle Harbour on the Fundy Coast in Canada. The aging house where she spent childhood summers is now inhabited by her anxious cousin Brendan and his husband, Michael, who is caring for his playwright mother in her mental decline. The cousins’ relationship, once suffocatingly close, is now brittle and distant. Attempts at reconnection are stilted, and the trio’s recollections of a fateful summer bonfire 12 years previous weave through their experience of the present day. The plot of the novel is murky and melancholy as many memories are, and the mood of this cast, whose paths have been deeply determined by things they can’t quite recall, feels achingly familiar and intimate. Vingoe-Cram’s first foray into graphic novels is compelling, with highly detailed individual images and slightly stilted panel comics that feel appealingly organic and refreshingly analogue.
VERDICT A powerful, painful debut that will entrance and entangle literary graphic novel lovers. It conjures a complicated history sure to haunt readers as dearly as it haunts its inhabitants.
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