‘Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride’ - Graphic Novel Review

I recently made the mistake of starting Lucy Knisley’s new book, Something New, early one lovely Friday evening.  The problem, of course, is I quickly found myself irrevocably sucked in, and pretty soon, my Friday night was entirely lost to Lucy’s charming world.  (As I write this review, I’m finding myself re-reading whole sections.)  As a veteran of her previous book, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, I should have predicted that I wouldn’t be able to put Something New down once I’d started it.  Also, it’s actually quite difficult to think of a more delightful way to spend a Friday evening than with her lovely stories and artwork.

Lucy Knisley writes and illustrates simple stories from her own life.  Relish was her delicious tale of growing up in a family of professional foodies.  In Something New, she shares the epic tale of finding love, loosing love, suddenly finding it again…and immediately embarking on planning a wedding.  She starts this journey with a long list of questions and doubts about the institution of marriage and of weddings as a necessary, or unnecessary, accompanying tradition.  Her struggle with marital expectations, and of her role as a bride in particular, in an age of rampant commercialization and soaring costs, informs every step of her journey.

Her mission statement, and ultimately the roadmap for Something New, was to plan a wedding that reflected both her and her partner’s personalities, as well as her abilities as an artist.  “I wanted to really think about it, about why I was getting married and how.  To make as much as I could make, and breakdown tradition and make it our own.”  The wedding becomes an exercise in creativity and self-reflection, and ultimately a story about finding yourself…through the months-long and infinitely stressful act of planning one of the most significant days of your life, and all of the creating, preparing, toiling, arguing, investigating, questioning, and worrying that goes along with it.

At 306 pages, Something New is an epic tale, as far as most graphic novels go.  This is due to its being in part a tale of romance lost and regained, a history of the traditions and superstitions surrounding marriage, and a detailed guide book to the minefield of affording, planning, and surviving your own wedding.  It’s a significant feat that Lucy covers all of this ground so seamlessly, in such a way as to keep the reader continuously buoyed along with little need to come up for air.  I could have kept reading it for a couple hundred more pages.

At the climax of the story, the wedding night itself, after the festivities had wound down into that second (third? fourth?) wind that comes to tirelessly happy celebrants, I found myself taking a long moment to bask in Lucy’s poetic depiction of the night and, quite frankly, to weep a bit with the joy and poignancy of the moment.  (Pretty much just like the members of the wedding party were doing at that exact same moment.)  It was a perfectly nostalgic moment for someone who has already gone through the wedding planning blender, a lovely re-living of all the camaraderie that comes with mutual survival and sharing of a life-changing choice.

I have permanently joined the Lucy Knisley “Fan Club,” following her continuing personal story on her website (www.lucyknisley.com), home to periodic illustrated updates on her life.  I’m delighted to see that the Something New story of wedding planning and new marriage is to be followed by a new tale about “making a new human.”  I can’t wait to re-experience the ups and downs of pregnancy and new parenthood through Lucy’s capable and talented hands.

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