Monday, March 28, 2011

graphic memoir review: Special Exits by Joyce Farmer

Special ExitsThe backstory: Entertainment Weekly named Special Exits one of the 10 best graphic novels of 2010.

The basics: Special Exits is a memoir of Joyce Farmer's experience caring for her aging parents as they struggle to care themselves in their Los Angeles home, which is in an increasingly run-down neighborhood.

My thoughts: I have been having incredible luck with graphic memoirs lately. I was utterly enchanted with Special Exits from the beginning and was sobbing into my coffee as I finished before work one day. Farmer tells the story with immense restraint. Lars and Rachel descend gradually into old age. Initially, they are too shy and proud to ask for the help of Laura (Special Exits is a memoir, but it's unclear precisely who Joyce is, but I assumed she is Laura). It's a subtle shift of power as Laura realizes how much Lars and Rachel need her.

As I read this book, which is as beautifully illustrated as is it hauntingly told with accompanying prose, I could not help but think of my parents and husband's parents growing older. No matter where Mr. Nomadreader and I settle down (and many who know us question our ability to settle down geographically given our nomadic histories), we simply won't be able to care for all of our parents as they grow older. I found it deeply affecting, but only partly because I wondered what I would and could do in the same situation Laura finds herself. It's a testament to Farmer that I was as emotionally effected imagining myself as Lars and Rachel.

The verdict: Special Exits is an emotionally raw and unflinchingly honest look at growing older and self-reliance. It's a deeply personal story, but it's a universal one sure to appeal to readers of all ages.

Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 208 pages
Publication date: December 6, 2010
Source: my local public library

Treat yourself! Buy Special Exits from Amazon, an independent bookstore, or the Book Depository.

As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!


  1. This sounds really sweet and deep. I'm not sure I could read it -- it might give me major anxiety. But I'm glad you shared it. I love graphic novels too, so maybe next time I'm in the section, I'll flip through it to see if I can handle it.

  2. I also struggle with thoughts of what I will do when my parents get to the point of needing care that I can't give them, and I think the issues that this book examines sound very interesting and very affecting. This was a great review of a book that I really need to check out. It sounds like there is a lot going on in there, and since my exposure to graphic novels is rather limited, I really appreciate this wonderful and thoughtful review.

  3. I also saw this book in the EW list and I'm looking forward to reading it. It does sound really good and I'm glad to see that you loved it.

  4. This is a difficult topic, and it looks like this memoir handles it beautifully. I'm always keeping an eye out for more graphic memoirs, I'll have to keep it in mind!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!