Lucy Knisley is a graphic novelist well-known for her autobiographical narratives, and one of my favorite artists. Her newest work is a bit more sobering than her past books: while her other graphic narratives convey themes of of freedom, passion, and youth, Displacement is about familial ties, mortality, and patience.
The book begins with 27-year-old Knisley finding out her family’s predicament: her grandparents, whom she affectionately calls the “grands,” signed up for a cruise through their assisted living home without discussing the idea with the family. Due to their health, however, they are unable to travel alone. Knisley volunteers to join them, excited at the prospect of a free vacation and spending time with her grandparents.
However, the undertaking proves more difficult than she had expected: her grandparents’ health has significantly declined, and it becomes her responsibility to anticipate their needs and address them accordingly. Despite the subject matter, Knisley’s sense of humor shines through with her charming writing and watercolor illustrations. She also includes essential insights into her grandparents’ past giving us a more well-rounded understanding of their characters-- while on the trip, she re-reads her grandfather’s memoirs from World War II, and recalls time she spent with them as a child.
I won’t lie. The book was difficult to read at times. How could it not be? Knisley is talking about what everyone tries to ignore: the heartbreak of seeing or thinking about your parents and grandparents age, the anxiety about getting older, facing your own mortality. But I found this book sticking with me after I finished it--in a good way. You are left with some of the same anxiety Knisley faces, but it makes you want to call your mom and tell her how much she means to you.
If you enjoyed “Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?” by Roz Chast, or you like reading memoirs or graphic narratives or you feel like being a little sad, pick up Displacement. It’s a short, meaningful read that will stick with you for some time after you finish, and it does a fine job of reminding us of the importance of connections with family.
Recommended by Allie Charles