Last Things

A Graphic Mem­oir of Loss and Love

Foreword Reviews - - Spotlight Reviews Graphic Novels -

Marissa Moss, Conari Press Soft­cover $18.95 (184pp) 978-1-57324-698-9

Marissa Moss shares the bru­tal ex­pe­ri­ence of her hus­band’s de­te­ri­o­ra­tion from ALS, in her un­flinch­ing graphic mem­oir, Last Things.

Moss, a suc­cess­ful au­thor of many chil­dren’s books, in­clud­ing the Amelia’s Note­book and Young Amer­i­can Voices se­ries, finds a sub­ject closer to home in Last Things—her hus­band Har­vey’s di­ag­no­sis and even­tual death of Amy­otrophic Lat­eral Scle­ro­sis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s dis­ease. Af­ter symp­toms emerge dur­ing an over­seas trip, Har­vey Stahl, a dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor of medieval art at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berke­ley, quickly de­clines, slur­ring words and hav­ing trou­ble walk­ing. Moss re­lates the story through her eyes, but also through Har­vey’s and their chil­dren’s when pos­si­ble, giv­ing a com­plete view of the tragedy from all sides.

Har­vey al­ter­nates be­tween ac­tive de­nial of the se­ri­ous­ness of his con­di­tion, and with­drawal from the fam­ily as he at­tempts to fin­ish a book. Moss jug­gles parenting her three chil­dren and tak­ing care of Har­vey. The stress and emo­tional ten­sion is pal­pa­ble through­out the book, a tes­ta­ment to Moss’s hon­esty; she openly re­veals her re­sent­ment at the ob­sta­cles to her own writ­ing, or Har­vey’s lack of in­volve­ment with the kids. It’s these very hu­man re­ac­tions that make it all the more af­fect­ing when she steps back from the heavy house­hold de­mands to re­flect on her re­la­tion­ship with her hus­band:

“We re­mem­ber ‘firsts,’ are aware of them by their very na­ture. But last things sneak up on you, slip away, un­no­ticed … Har­vey and I share a lot of ‘lasts’ and we don’t even know it.”

Moss’s black-and-white il­lus­tra­tions are sim­ple but ex­pres­sive, per­fect for telling this story. Last Things is dif­fi­cult to read at times, gru­el­ing in its emo­tional de­tail, but ul­ti­mately it stands as a moving mem­oir and a guide not just for those car­ing for some­one af­flicted with ALS, but any­one seek­ing a bet­ter un­der­stand­ing of the pro­cesses of dy­ing or griev­ing.

While Wolf shows and de­scribes her re­la­tion­ships with sev­eral ro­man­tic part­ners, she also high­lights pla­tonic love with points of in­sight, such as this one about a long­time friend:

“Peo­ple talk about ‘soul­mates’ and ‘life part­ners,’ re­serv­ing these spe­cial ti­tles for ro­man­tic part­ner­ships alone, but I feel more deeply sure about her re­main­ing in my life than any ro­man­tic part­ner I’ve ever had.”

Wolf’s color art­work is raw and car­toony, but more than ad­e­quate to tell her tale. Love, Re­told is an apt ti­tle—wolf’s book doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily aim to re­draw the lines of a largely monog­a­mous so­ci­ety; in­stead, by re­lat­ing her per­sonal ex­pe­ri­ences, she looks to en­cour­age in­di­vid­u­als to sim­ply find what works best for them and em­brace it.

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