I don't read too many graphic novels generally. I have read some good ones - I love Craig Thompson's Blankets for one. However, faced with a reading slump I couldn't get over, I tried a suggestion from Rita at View From My Books, and switched things up. I had spotted this author on one of my friend's Facebook page, so here I am. And I am glad I listened to these two people!
I love this author/illustrator. Knisley bases her writing off of journals that she keeps of her travels and adventures, and it makes the writing for these books so much more personal. I think part of my problem with graphic novels sometimes is the removal of myself from the story, or an inability to feel like I know the characters well. Knisley's books are more memoir, travelogue, and she is honest about her life and adventures. The illustrations are not overwhelming, glaring from every page in a maze of boxes, but calm and meaningful.
It was an odd experience to read these two back to back. I read An Age of License first. License is about Lucy's adventure through Europe, meeting up with friends, family, and her Swedish love interest, while young and unfettered. She was carefree, enjoying life, food, midnight picnics under the Eiffel tower. She was struggling a bit with the angst that happens in your twenties with thoughts of the future, marriage, career, etc, but she realizes that this is just a phase of her life, where she has "license" to have fun and try new things.
In contrast, where An Age of License is about beginnings, Displacement is a story about endings. This book straight up made me teary in many places. Lucy's elderly grandparents, both in their 90s, sign up for a cruise through their nursing home. When their family hears about it, none of the have the heart to tell them they can't go, but know in their hearts that they can't do it, at least alone. So Lucy, being young and unencumbered, volunteers to travel with her grandparents and assist them. Her grandmother has dementia, pretty advanced, and her grandfather is losing his memory as well, and is also incontinent. The love that Lucy feels for her grandparents is evident in every page, everything that she does, from making sure they make all their connecting flights, to washing her grandfather's pants every night before bed. By the end of the trip she is exhausted- for someone who is not used to being a caregiver, taking care of two elderly people on a cruise would be a huge change. Lucy's eyes are opened to how some of the people in this world treat the elderly - like they are invisible people who don't matter. Lucy deals with this, as well as her own personal feelings of sadness, frustration, that go hand in hand with caregiving, even for a loved one. She remembers her grands as they were when they were healthy - to see them decline is heartbreaking.
It was a long two weeks for Lucy, but one that was also made easy - everything she did, she did with love for her grandparents. You do for family, to quote "The Middle" and isn't that the truth? Her grandfather thanked Lucy for making the trip possible and memorable for them, and told her that he loved her. I cried.
The book is also interspersed with passages from the memoir that Lucy's grandfather wrote about his time in the war, so we the reader see Lucy's grandfather through two lenses, the one of his youth at the prime of his life, and the way that he is now, in his 90s.
I very much enjoyed both of these books. It was unintentional, reading these two back to back, but it gave me such a different perspective on age and on the stories themselves. I hope to read her other work soon!