Monday, 25 February 2019

Home After Dark by David Small Review

Set sometime in the 1950s/60s, 13 year old Russell Pruit and his father set out to make a new life for themselves in California after Russ’ mother leaves them in Ohio. But will life be any better on the West Coast? 

David Small’s long-awaited follow-up to his spectacular memoir Stitches, Home After Dark, is fairly good. This time it’s fiction though it’s set around the time Small would’ve been the same age as the protagonist so the portrayal of the era feels very convincing. Like society’s general intolerance of the different - the racism towards the Chinese characters, the brutality shown toward the gay kid - and the greaser fashion and drive-in culture. 

It’s a standard growing-up story though. Russ tries to find belonging, makes friends, gets bullied, has a sexual awakening, becomes aware of the complicated world of adults, and so on. There’s a subplot about an animal killer but it’s just another aspect of one of the character portraits, the repulsive show-off try-hard. 

Which isn’t to say it’s not well done. The art is superb, perfectly capturing the body language, and the storytelling is masterful - the narrative flows beautifully and the characters seem real. And though I wouldn’t say the content is that remarkable - there’s nothing original or that memorable here - I also wasn’t bored reading it either. 

It’s not as good as Stitches but Home After Dark is still a well-made comic and a mildly entertaining read.

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