Stitches (A Memoir) by David Small, 2009
Published by W.W. Norton & Company
First line: “I was six.”
Book Rx: For days when your family is driving you crazy.
Small’s beautifully drawn book tells the tale of his bizarre childhood — from his frequent X-rays thanks to his radiologist father, his difficult mother’s frequent bursts of cruelty, the loss of his voice, to his eventual catharsis.
I read Stitches in one sitting, cover to cover. Small doesn’t really tell you what happens as much as he shows you. Or draws it for you, to be exact. I found it difficult not to get all emotional — to me, each black-and-white watercolor frame was spot on.
I loved the small, touching childlike scenes: Small sock-skating along hospital corridors, his escape to imagination as a response to bullying. I loved how Small illustrated, with restraint and without going cheesy-overboard, very difficult moments: his journey into his mouth during Operation #2, his relationship with his grandma, his scream within a scream within a scream.
At risk of giving away spoilers (hoho), Small eventually survives his “childhood from hell.” The last few pages provide further insight into the characters of Small’s parents — in particular his mom — who are, at the end of the day, frail. And unfailingly human.
There are sad and painful moments, yes. But there is healing here too, and perhaps for Small, that is enough.