If you follow this blog you will already know how much I love Stitches: A Memoir by David Small. I was most interested to see this week that the US Publishers Weekly magazine, which is busily compiling its top 100 list for 2009, has chosen it as one of the 10 books that really stands out from the rest. That is some accolade, considering that the starting list was 50,000 new titles.
Here is what PW wrote when the book first came past its desk:
In this profound and moving memoir, Small, an award-winning children’s book illustrator, uses his drawings to depict the consciousness of a young boy. The story starts when the narrator is six years old and follows him into adulthood, with most of the story spent during his early adolescence. The youngest member of a silent and unhappy family, David is subjected to repeated x-rays to monitor sinus problems. When he develops cancer as a result of this procedure, he is operated on without being told what is wrong with him. The operation results in the loss of his voice, cutting him off even further from the world around him. Small’s black and white pen and ink drawings are endlessly perceptive as they portray the layering of dream and imagination onto the real-life experiences of the young boy. Small’s intuitive morphing of images, as with the terrible postsurgery scar on the main character’s throat that becomes a dark staircase climbed by his mother, provide deep emotional echoes. Some understanding is gained as family secrets are unearthed, but for the most part David fends for himself in a family that is uncommunicative to a truly ghastly degree. Small tells his story with haunting subtlety and power.
Stitches has been nominated for numerous prizes in the US. It is an exceptional book. I reckon it would make a fantastic book club choice, that is, if the club can wean itself off its dependence on the written word as the only acceptable “text type”. I would be fascinated in other people’s experience of this visual memoir.