Thursday, July 3, 2014

book review: Over Easy by Mimi Pond

The basics: Over Easy is a partially fictionalized graphic memoir of Mimi Pond's experience as an art student and diner waitress in Berkeley, California in the 1970's.

My thoughts: I spent years working in restaurants. I never worked in a diner, but the wine bar in Atlanta where Mr. Nomadreader and I met, had an eight-hour brunch every Saturday and Sunday. Given my history (and Mr. Nomadreader's continued work) in the service industry, I'm drawn to books about the restaurant business. When I read Mimi Pond wrote a comic for Seventeen in the 1990's, I immediately remembered her, and I also knew she wrote for The Simpsons. Over Easy may be a debut graphic memoir, but she's an accomplished and experienced artist and author.

Pond captures the essence of 1970's Berkeley well. I was eager to explore that world, and the level of detail helped me immerse myself in it quickly. She also captures the naivete of her former self well. As is still the case, restaurants are filled with sex, drinking and drugs, and Mimi was often surprised to see how her co-workers lived and partied.

What was less successful for me in terms of storytelling was the lack of insight. It's as though Pond shared her journals from the moment without the perspective of life lived since then. In that sense, it's too ordinary of a coming of age story. Much will be familiar to anyone who spent time working in a restaurant today. While this type of coming of age story can be quite successful, I was struck by how ordinary her experience was. Clearly it was powerful enough for her to tell this story (and tell it well), but as I read, I kept waiting for the 'so what?' moment. What makes this graphic memoir/novel special? Given Pond's professional success, there's an argument there, but she doesn't address her life now at all, even in passing. Pond is what's most interesting here, but too much of the story hinges on the cast of characters that fascinated, delighted and confounded her younger self. Unfortunately, they didn't have the same impact on this reader.

The verdict: I had high expectations for Over Easy, and overall I was underwhelmed. Pond immersed me in the time and place, but I wanted more insight and reflection into her experience. I wanted more insight into what makes this story special. I most enjoyed her life outside of the restaurant, but the story focused mostly on the cast of characters within the restaurant. Ultimately, Over Easy is a competent coming of age graphic memoir, but I wanted more.

Rating: 3 out of 5
Length: 272 pages
Publication date: April 15, 2014
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Over Easy from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (no Kindle edition.)

Want more? Visit Mimi Pond's website, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

As an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you for helping to support my book habits that bring more content to this blog!

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