Other People is two beautifully told stories about family and community relationships, with spot on character studies.
The first story, Days of the Bagnold Summer, is an in depth look of a summer between a mother and her teenage son after his plans to visit his father in Florida fall through. Set in a small British town, Sue and Daniel uneasily move through their days, with Sue trying to connect with her metal-head teenager. Daniel skulks around home, not truly upset about not making the annual trip to visit his father and stepmother, but not wanting to admit it to his mother. Six weeks pass, with Daniel slowly gaining some insight and empathy towards his mother, who does her damndest in trying to prod him lovingly in the right direction. Their interactions were so true to life, and the conclusion with the two of them heading to a family wedding was sweet.
I connected with this story at many levels, as Sue is shown at the library she works at, and as a librarian myself, I laughed at some of the observations she made about patrons there. But it was a mother trying to relate to her teen that was the most poignant for me. Actually I am a mother to three teens- and believe me, there are days that are hard with them. I had so much compassion for the character of Sue and I wanted to shake clueless Daniel, although at heart he wasn’t a bad son. I look forward to the movie they are going to make of this story.
The longer second story, Driving Short Distances, was another character study, this time between Sam and his boss Keith. Sam is 27 and at a crossroads in life, as he failed out of university and had a breakdown; so Keith, who is a distant relative of the family, takes him on as a sort of an apprentice in his distribution and delivery business. That Sam truly never figures out what Keith does on his endless errands is a running gag. Keith’s false boasting and foibles become evident as Sam is stuck in the car with him for hours a day, but Sam becomes more confident as the story progresses and he knows he has to stop being carried about in the current and grapple with making himself a new life. The story is a sort of love letter to small town life, as Keith and Sam interact with the same residents day in and out, and I laughed out loud several times. By the end, you are aching for both men, as this tender story shows how toxic masculinity can prevent men from really connecting with one another.
Author Joff Winterhart really captures the frailties, oddities and connections between people especially in small communities where people have known each other and their families for generations. His sketchwork captures the essence of people, warts and all, drawn in black and white with excellent shading. His blue overwash in the second story hints towards the depression that both men exhibit, showcasing that Winterhart’s deceptively simple looking artwork is quite effective. I am thankful to NetGalley for bringing to my attention this graphic novel and it’s charming stories.