Finished: Mar. 9, 2011
First Published: Feb. 8, 2011
Genre: graphic novel, magical realism, literary fiction
When the cancer that had spread throughout most of his brain finally took the best of him, Schlomo Lerner had, at the age of 89, been in love 274 times.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Vertigo.
Reason for Reading: Honestly, I would not have chosen this book myself and simply started to read it as I'd been sent a review copy. I had no idea what to expect and again, honestly, wasn't sure I'd even like it.
This book is exquisite! Bras de Olivia Domingos is the only son of a famous Brazilian author, and a miracle child to his mother, who himself is an aspiring author but at the moment has the lowly job on a newspaper as obituary writer. This story takes a look at Bras' life, a day at a time. A random day, each chapter focusing on a different age, going back and forth from young to middle age to youth to elderly and each day ends with his death. These are the possibilities of his life; throughout we are given a whole life story of Bras and yet we see how his life could have ended any day. Heroic deaths, tragic deaths, accidental deaths ironic deaths; they are all possibilities.
The twin brother author/illustrators show the reader how much death is a natural part of life. How one must respect each day of life as if it were the last. Live each day in a way that will honour yourself (your soul) should this be your last one. What will your obituary say about your life? Will it say you died as you lived? But not only is the book about death but about life as well. When do you truly start living your own life? Bras' mother retells the story of his birth over and over throughout the years nicknaming him "miracle child". Do you start living when you are born? Or when you start to love? Or is it when you reach your goals? When should one stop waiting for life to begin and start living it?
Each chapter is like a short story with a trick ending and yet they are all related and a pattern develops and a life starts to take form. One sees missed opportunities, misspent youth, true defining moments in a life and finally after all the possible outcomes, not exactly what most would call a happy ending, but a life well lived.
I don't know whether the authors are Catholic but Brazil does have the world's largest Catholic population and I noticed several rosaries in the illustrations. I bring this up because as I was reading I couldn't help thinking how pertinent the story was to the Catholic way of life. Catholic theology asks us to always try to live each day prepared spiritually to enter Heaven as we never know when our time on earth will end or when the day of Christ's return will come.
A stunning, compelling, breathtaking read! This is the book you bring out if you still know people who think graphic novels are somehow lower on the literary spectrum than "real" novels.