It’s rare to find a novel that so succeeds in reaching right into your chest and yanking your heart out, but Craig Thompson’s Blankets did just that.
This graphic novel is an autobiographical look at Thompson’s young life, beginning with his early days growing up in a strict Christian household in Wisconsin and sharing a bed with his little brother Phil to entering high school as an awkward adolescent, eventually arriving at church camp — where he meets the lovely and troubled Raina, the young woman with whom he falls hopelessly in love. Blankets is a story of family, pain, suffering, abuse, religion, love — and moving beyond those things to form your own identity.
And it spoke to me — and stuck with me. I borrowed this monster of a novel (600+ pages) from the library, rushing over on my lunch break to grab my copy. By 10 p.m. that evening, after many fits and starts with regular life getting in the way, I’d closed the final page. But that doesn’t mean I’ll ever forget what I saw.
Thompson’s look at love is stunning; his portrayal of his relationship with Raina encompasses so many of the sensations and fears that accompany falling in love for the first time. Walking through this story visually — as opposed to a traditional book — was a really different but enlightening experience. As I hunkered down in my favorite chair with Blankets propped precariously in my lap, my mom walked by and squinted at it.
“What are you reading?” she asked. “Is that a big coloring book?”
No — definitely not. The novel lacks any color at all, but it doesn’t need it; everything is there, inside the bold blacks and whites of Thompson’s lines — and maybe outside them, too. It’s a story about permanence, change and the danger that comes with loving. It’s about loss. And to me? About what we can — and can’t — be for each other. Especially in those early relationships, how can we know which crevices to fill — or how to love each other enough? Can it ever be enough? Can it heal the wounds that opened long before we ever arrived, holding our arms open to this person?
How can we know it’s forever?
We can’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s any less beautiful.
And now that I’ve waxed philosophical about this novel, first recommended to me by Lu at Regular Rumination, I’ll add for those who don’t traditionally read or enjoy graphic novels: trust me, I’ve been in your ranks for a very long time. And I won’t say that Blankets will completely convert you to the graphic novel genre, because I can’t say that I prefer it to a traditional novel (or ever will). But Thompson’s story is too gorgeous to be missed.
5 out of 5!