Review: Displacement

Displacement: A Travelogue by comic artist extraordinaire Lucy Knisley examines the realities of our own mortality and the strain of age. When her ailing grandparents decide they want to go on a luxury cruise in their 90s, no one in the Knisley family is very keen on the idea. Lucy steps up and offers to accompany them on the Caribbean trip hoping it will be an opportunity to bond with her grandparents and somehow not be too frustrating. It ends up being a quite moving examination of familial relationships, the ability for compassion, and the need for sensitivity in the most discomfiting situations told with a humor and grace that is awesome to behold.

Displacement by Lucy Knisley
Displacement by Lucy Knisley

I’ve loved Lucy’s work for quite a while. She has quite a number of graphic novels available for purchase including French MilkRelish, and An Age of License (all of which I have read and are truly excellent). She has quickly become one of my favorite artists. I love her style. It is so elegant. No matter whether it’s ink or water color (her water colors are gorgeous), it is always beautiful. It’s like she beams whatever is in her heart directly onto the page. Her writing style is equal parts wit and honesty. She shares so much of herself with her audience and does so with a wholly original voice. Lucy’s thoughts are very easy to relate to. She has a universality about her experience that is wonderful to inhabit.

Displacement is a companion book to An Age of License. Both are travelogues, but An Age of License is a whirlwind European love story, while Displacement is a little more… stressful. It’s heartbreaking to watch Lucy’s interactions with her grandparents as she struggles to anticipate their every need. Age is a trying process. The people we love most become almost strangers to us. Their need is so raw it’s almost hard to watch. Her grandparents both suffer some physical and mental deterioration, though each has their own particular troubles. Still, they are spry enough to go on the cruise, with a lot of help from Lucy. This book gives a whole new appreciation for the toil of caretakers. They do so much hard and necessary work for their wards. On the surface, Lucy works hard to be calm and helpful, while underneath there is panic and a general seething anger at the inconsiderate nature of other, self-absorbed people. The most heart wrenching part is probably the comparison brought about by flashbacks to her grands the deterioration, when they were still in command of their minds and bodies. The disparity is vast. This is also highlighted by the excerpts of her grandfather’s World War II memoir. Lucy’s love and respect for her grandparents is very clear. She does so much for them and drives herself nearly mad trying to keep them happy, despite their natural quiet and seeming lack of reciprocity. But their gratitude is clear in the subtext.

It’s a good book and a very telling examination of the struggles of old age and mortality. It is the kind of story that makes you think about your life and the lives of your love ones. The human body is such a delicate machine. I get kind of freaked out when I think too hard about all the things that can go wrong with it, everything that can fall apart. Yet, it gives you a new appreciation for what the elderly are going through. How hard it must be to lose so much autonomy. Yes, youth is to be valued, but the elderly are also to be cherished and cared for in their time of need. The book may bring up some uncomfortable truths, but they are truths that need to be looked at directly. To quote Lucy, “Good or bad, it’s important to feel connected sometimes, even if that connection can be painful.”

I recommend you pick the book up; its a good and quick read, even if it is an emotionally charged one. If you are looking for something a little lighter, Lucy’s other books aren’t quite so heavy! Either way, becoming a Lucy Knisley fan will be one of the best decisions you have ever made. I anxiously anticipate her forthcoming works.

Until next time!


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