Eighteen different lives- one soul.
This ambitious book weaves together eighteen different lives, spread out through the centuries to tell a singular tale. Each page has nine panels, with the neighboring page having the other nine, thus you see eighteen lives at once, all in a similar time period of their lives. Author and illustrator Ray Fawkes created a unique mosaic, the small stories coming together to tell a grander one.
How you choose to read the story can vary, and quite honestly can be frustrating, until you find a system that works for you. After flipping through the book to get an idea of the structure, I ended up starting at the beginning and choosing one life to concentrate on and then proceeding chronologically through the book, eighteen times over. One life ends early, the panels going black to symbolize their death, with the other lives ending as various times, with one woman being the longest-lived. As you flip through the book, even if only concentrating on one panel at a time, you will start to notice patterns and themes in all eighteen lives as they proceed through life. My advice is to read this book in several different sittings, it will blur if you try to read it in one fell swoop.
The stories take place all over the world in all different eras. We start with a hunter and gatherer and end with a modern-day individual- with sad and happy stories, some people finding happiness while others endure brutal ends. They all start as innocent babies and due to circumstances and/or choices they all diverge and travel different paths until their lives end. The narrative becomes poetic, even more so when I decided to read some stories backward.
The black and white drawings were simplistic, but captured enough of the different time periods to give their stories an essence. At times the faces seem contorted and misshapen, and I found drawings of the hands to be especially blocky. Perspectives shift in the panels, sometimes to good effect, other times it seemed off. Names, locations and years are not given but you can surmise enough information to understand.
While religion was not touched on deeply, the title makes you think about the universality of life. While the eighteen lives here were all different, the goals of finding love and fulfillment are ubiquitous to all. This is a challenging book to read, and might not be to everyone’s liking, but I found the concept interesting enough to persevere.