Friday, March 02, 2012

I discovered a fascinating gem in the graphic novel section--Bayou, Volume 1 by Jeremy Love. Set in the rural South, pre-civil rights era, our main character is Lee, the young daughter of a sharecropper. Her mother died in the bayou long ago--the juke joint where she sang was blown away in a hurricane, no trace of it or any of the people inside ever to be found again. Lee's happy with her daddy and with her best friend, Lily, but there's no ignoring the racial tension that divides her family from her white friend. As the book progresses, this tension and the resulting violence are the key points of the story.

The book begins with Lee diving into the bayou to help recover the body of a young black boy who was lynched after whistling at a white woman. When she finds the body, she sees the ghost of the boy in the water. After that Lee sees many a strange thing. Are they ghosts? Ghouls? Some have physical form, some don't seem to. It's not clear what's going on in the bayou, but it's obvious something supernatural is afoot. Lee and Lily's friendship grows cold when Lily loses her expensive necklace and, afraid of being beaten by her mother, accuses Lee of stealing the jewelry. Lee's daddy won't stand up for her and tries to explain that this is the way things are, and the time to fight hasn't come yet. This doesn't sit well with Lee, and it sits even worse when Lily goes missing and Lee's daddy is accused. Lee knows her daddy could hang. She also knows her daddy had nothing to do with Lily's disappearance. In fact, Lee herself witnessed what happened to Lily--and it involves the creepy denizens of the bayou. Lee decides that now is indeed the time to fight, and she's the one to save her daddy's life.

The art is gorgeous. The story is super weird. This makes for a great combination. The book is an odd-shaped size, the content is simultaneously fascinating and horrifying, the humor that lightens the tone of the book can be described with words like "quirky" or "just plain strange." Those are just the ingredients I need to recommend it.

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