Have you ever experienced anxiety while reading a graphic novel? Well, I have never felt so passively stressed while reading one, so much so that at one point it was confusing – “is it because of the book? or is it because of my life & other worries in general?”.
It was definitely the book.
The book in question is ‘Displacement: A Travelogue’ by Lucy Knisley, which is so not your regular fun travel novel. While Lucy’s art style is very children zine like – colorful, bouncy and cute – the content of her story is quite the opposite. The graphic novel is all about her playing caretaker on a cruise with her grandparents Allen and Phyllis, who are in their 90s because their health is scarily deteriorating. So it was a lot of anxiety inducing content for me, because as a reader, you are constantly worried about the nonagenarians and also for Lucy’s mental health. There are medicines to keep track of, unexpected medical emergencies to be vary of, the possibility of sea-sickness on the cruise and a slightly apathetic staff to add to further frustration.
The story really hits you, especially if you have a grandparent, making you ponder upon your own relationship with them. In the beginning, Lucy wonders what the trip with her grands will be like, if it will be
1. A bonding trip
2. A chance at adventure
3. A depressing insight into the deteriorating health of her grands
4. Comedy gold
5. A frustration fest
6. A worrisome glimpse into decadent first world irresponsible luxury
7. All of the above
It was all of the above minus the ‘comedy gold’. At least I couldn’t get a laugh out of this book. Just like Lucy cannot decide if she has been ‘good’ for offering to take care of her grandparents or ‘vain’ for wanting to be seen as good; as a reader it’s hard to tell if you should feel pity or pride for her efforts. Every night on the cruise, the poor thing returns to her room exhausted from running around her grands and is almost always on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Lucy isn’t exactly very close to either Phyllis or Allen, so there is very little interaction between them, especially due to the fact that the couple is also slowly losing their memories to dementia. Phyllis barely even recognizes her grand-kid. In an attempt to make the reader more familiar with them, we have a parallel story-line where Lucy reads her grandfather’s memoir from his World War II days as a fighter pilot. While for the protagonist it was a great way to re-establish a connection with their grandfather, it came off as a half-heart attempt at making the largely boring and anxiety-inducing travelogue more exciting. We get nothing about Phyllis, except that she was once a strict school teacher.
Nothing much happens in the book, it’s really just a glimpse into the life of any caretaker looking after an old couple, just that this one happens on a boat in the Caribbean. It’s the lively art by the author that manages to keep the reader engaged till the last page.
It’s a 3/5 from me.
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