David Small is an award winning illustrator and writer, having worked on several books, including one of my son’s favourites: When Dinosaurs Came with Everything. Stitches was recommended to me by one of my librarian friends who is also a graphic novel enthusiast. It is a kind of graphic memoir, in a manner somewhat similar to Persepolis but with a much tighter focus, no larger political backdrop. It is amazing.
Stitches is a quick overview of Small’s childhood to his young adulthood, and hinges on an long delayed operation he had when he was 14. He thought it was a simple operation to remove a cyst in his neck, but in fact it was to secretly remove a cancerous growth along with one of his vocal cords and his thyroid gland. He was unable to speak, but the resulting silence was nothing new in his family home, having grown up in a strangely strangled, hostile environment where each member of the family seems to live without a voice. I hesitate to give much more detail for fear of spoiling the book, which has a fair number of startling revelations for being such a relatively short story. However, Small did an interesting interview with Amazon that gives some interesting background into the history of the book, although be warned the Publisher’s Weekly blurb underneath the interview does contain spoilers.
Small is an excellent illustrator in general, and this book is no exception. The art in this book is fairly spare and done in black and white, but is really evocative of the mood of the book, illustrating how huge everything seems when one is a small lonely child, but how focus becomes narrow and detail oriented when the situation is threatening or sad. There is very little dialogue in the book, but the art is able to carry the narrative along very clearly. Stitches is a really powerful, moving memoir, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.