Summary: One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.
In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children's illustrator and author, recreates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a Gothic family drama, where David — a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents' buried frustration and rage.
Believing, as most parents do, that they were trying to do the best, David's parents, in fact, did just the reverse: Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag in the family's basement, was convinced that he could cure his little son by shooting him up with heavy doses of radiation, yet with near deadly results; while David's mother, Elizabeth, a tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding parent, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.
Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that render nightmare in a form that becomes a fairytale in itself, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child, to cancer patient, to troubled teen, whose risky decision to run away from home at 16 — with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist — would become the ultimate survival statement.
A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches is as much a memoir as a tale of redemption that informs us that things can get better, that good can emerge from evil, and that art has the power to transform. It is a both a profound gift and a remarkable achievement, a book that renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again.
Cover photo and summary courtesy of http://stitches.davidsmallbooks.com/
My Review: This is an unusual book in that it is made up completely of sketches in comic book form. What a perfect way to tell the story of a boy who loses control over his vocal cords at a young age due to cancer. Pictures say more than words possibly could. These illustrations capture the frustration and sadness, fear and helplessness of a young boy. They do a fantastic job of showing the child's perspective, something many memoirs lack.
The book is at once both heartbreaking and powerful. It is a mix of sweet and fearful memories, a splendid blend of fantasy and reality. It's the story of a boy suffering from neglect and on the verge of abuse who, with the aid of a caring psychiatrist, learns the strength he has inside himself. A painful story, yet one that is beautifully told.
The entire book takes less than an hour to read yet it's message is timeless. The obstacles that David Small overcame to become the man he now is are amazing. Drifting towards destruction, David Small found the courage to move on and make something out of his life - an unsung hero. His strength is very inspirational. This is one you should not miss.
My Rating: 5 Stars
Sum it up: A remarkable tale of strength and courage flawlessly rendered.