48 of 59 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Hardcover)
Alison Bechdel, Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (Houghton Mifflin, 2006)
I'm somewhat impressed that I somehow managed to read one of the New York Times' Notable Books of 2006 while it's still 2006, and before they named it as a notable book. Completely unlike me. But there it is. My closet trendiness is finally leaking out.
And as tempting as it is to use that paragraph as a segue into a review of Fun Home, I can't figure out a way to do it that isn't monstrously cheesy, so I'll leave it where it stands.
As sick of the whole memoir thing as I am, there are still a few that generate enough buzz from the trustworthy to merit picking up while they're still somewhat fresh. Fun Home has been one of them since months before it came out, and for the most part, the buzz seems warranted. (The part that's not "most" is because, well, it's a memoir, and in today's climate, where everyone from the Bush's pet dog to the janitor of the local brothel is publishing a memoir, publishing a memoir in and of itself is cause for skepticism.) Bechdel takes her childhood journal and reworks it with an adult sensibility, but doesn't throw out the awkward, painful bits. Or, if she did, she left enough of them in to make it scan.
At its heart, Fun Home is the story of the conflict between Bechdel and her father, both of whom were struggling with sexuality issues during Bechdel's adolescence; she eventually came out, while her father stayed closeted until his death (whether accident or suicide, a question unanswered to this day). Bechdel picks at the relationship, worries it like a dog at a neighbor's welcome mat, piecing her father together from a tapestry of memories and journal entries, telling the story of the rest of her somewhat dysfunctional family (yes, only somewhat; no Augusten Burroughs or David Sedaris here, thankfully) in the process. And while she was doing so, I kind of wondered where it was all going, as I usually do with memoirs-- whether it would resolve, or whether it would just end. Because life is not well known for its resolutions.
Bechdel, however, should be. The final, page-sized frame of Fun Home is both a surprise and the only correct ending to the book, and it moves the book from "okay, decent memoir" to "wow, that works." She does what she does, and she does it well. Well enough that sometimes it sneaks up on you. ***
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 18, 2009 1:48:13 PM PST
J. Horton-Holm says:
Yep want to read it!!! Thanks. The most helpful reviews for me are sometimes the critical ones.
Posted on Jan 26, 2015 10:11:50 AM PST
Coffee Enthusiast says:
Thanks for your review's intelligent and literary prose. Interesting and helpful, too.
Posted on Jun 13, 2015 7:22:14 AM PDT
Honest Integrity says:
From your review I get the impression that you like this novel, or as Sally Fields would say, you really, really liked it! But I cannot determine why you only left it three stars. Was it because 1) You are "sick of the whole memoir thing"? Or 2) Your "closet trendiest is finally leaking out"? Or 3) Your finger slipped from four stars to three.
I'm asking because you wrote "okay, decent memoir" (which is Three Stars) to "Wow, that works" (which is Four or possibly Five Stars). I just want you to be honest with your review.
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