Special Exits

Special Exits

Joyce Farmer's memoir chronicles the decline of the author's parents' health, their relationship with one another and with their daughter, and how they cope with the day-to-day emotional fragility of the most taxing time of their lives.

Elderly parents Lars and Rachel, who have enjoyed a long and loving married life together, are rendered in fine, confident pen lines. Set in southern Los Angeles (which makes for a terrifying sequence as blind Rachel and ailing Lars are trapped in their home without power during the 1992 Rodney King riots), backgrounds and props are lovingly detailed: these objects serve as memory triggers for Lars and Rachel, even as they eventually overwhelm them and their home, which the couple is loathe to leave. Special Exits is laid out in an eight-panel grid, which creates a leisurely storytelling pace that not only helps to convey the slow, inexorable decline in Lars' and Rachel's health, but perfectly captures the timbre of the exchanges between a long-married couple: the affectionate bickering; their gallows humor; their querulousness as their bodies break down.

Though Lars and Rachel are the protagonists of Special Exits, Farmer makes her voice known through creative visual metaphors and in her indictment of the careless treatment of the elderly in nursing homes. Special Exits gracefully deals with the hard reality of caring for aging loved ones: those who are or who have been in similar situations might find comfort in it, and those who haven't will find much to admire in the bravery and good humor of Lars and Rachel. Joyce Farmer, best known for co-creating the Tits 'n Clits comics anthology in the 1970s, a feminist response to the rampant misogyny in underground comix, spent 11 years crafting Special Exits, a graphic memoir in the vein of Alison Bechdel's Fun Home or Harvey Pekar, Joyce Brabner, and Frank Stack's Our Cancer Year, about caring for her dying father and stepmother.

Title:Special Exits
Edition Language:English
ISBN:9781606993811
Format Type:

    Special Exits Reviews

  • Melki

    My 84-year-old friend is quite fond of telling me, "Don't ever get old!" I always respond with, "Okay, but I'm not crazy about the alternative." This is the moving, true story, told in graphic novel f...

  • Licha

    Couldn't put this book down. This one is right up there with Can't We Talk about Something More Pleasant?.It's a lot to take in when dealing with ailing, elderly parents. Laura finds herself taking ov...

  • Lars Guthrie

    I can be forgiven for knowing nothing of Joyce Farmer. Apparently, she did make a mark in the underground commix industry in the 70s when she and Lyn Chevely created T*t* and Cl*t*, a counterweight to...

  • Rachel

    This excellently written and drawn book is based on the last years of the author's father and stepmother. It shows their gradual decline and need for a lot of care. They managed to stay in their own h...

  • Rebecca

    (3.5) In terms of subject matter the physical and mental decline of the artists parents this is similar to Cant We Talk about Something More Pleasant? by Roz Chast, but Farmers book is more gruell...

  • Emilia P

    This book was pretty amazing. I was skeptical, with R. Crumb's glowing recommendation, that it might be a dash of nepotism, especially because I hadn't heard of Farmer. But I was won over within the f...

  • Louise

    I understand that this graphic novel is a portrayal of the authors own story told through Laura in her role as daughter and care giver. Short vignettes chronicle the decline of Lars, her father and Ra...

  • Jan Priddy

    I read a few new graphic novels each year just to stay abreast of what is around and because I teach them. Like most of my favorites, this isn't a novel, but memoir. Joyce Farmer's graphic memoir (201...

  • Kirk

    Relevant to anyone who has had to watch somebody they know and love wither and die, and basically devolve into a fussy child, albeit immobile. Farmer sticks to a format of 9 panels per page, employing...

  • Katie

    I think I'm probably in the wrong audience for this book, as I haven't yet had any experience with declining parents or grandparents, and not really connecting on that level kind of threw off a lot of...