Monday, April 12, 2010

Graphic Novel Monday: Unholy Kinship, by Naomi Nowak

Unholy Kinship, by Naomi Nowak. Published 2006 by ComicsLit. Paperback.
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Unholy Kinship
is an eccentric and slightly disturbing little book about two sisters and the mystery surrounding their mother's illness, their father's death and the fate of the young women themselves. Younger sister Luca is the paid caretaker of her older sister Gae, struggling with an unnamed mental illness; their mother is dormant in an asylum, catatonic for years.

Before these tragedies befell the family, Luca and Gae's parents were psychologists deep in controversial research about the relationship between humans and primates; now, monkeys come to Luca in her dreams and speak to her. Are they real or a fantasy? Are Gae and her mother really sick or medicated into a stupor by the menacing doctors and nurses surrounding them? What's really going on here?

This short little book, easy to read in a sitting, is a trippy voyage down a strange rabbit hole. The dreamlike art does much of the work in creating the hallucinatory atmosphere; much of the book is washed out in grays, pinks and purples that make the reader feel only half-conscious, like someone just awoken from a deep dream. It also does most of the storytelling as it's rich in detail and little of the space is occupied by dialogue. A sort of somnambulist pall hangs over the story, and the women, as the most vivid and "normally colored" sequences are of the brief moments the sisters share outside their claustrophobic home.

Unholy Kinship is an unusual graphic read, and not one that I'd suggest to a newcomer to the genre; the experienced reader looking for something different might really enjoy Swedish artist and author Nowak's strange and not-entirely optimistic book. I enjoyed it but I can't say it was a favorite; what I liked best was that artwork. There is some sexual content but little profanity; religious figures are presented as creepy, ill-willed villains, and there's no happy ending. I'd suggest the book to fans of movies like "Donnie Darko" or the 80s TV series "Twin Peaks"- it's like an art-house film set to paper and panels. You might even want to play a little Angelo Badalamenti while you're reading.

Rating: BACKLIST

FTC Disclosure: I did not receive this book for review from the publisher.