Essex County by Jeff Lemire

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The Essex County Trilogy is a very special story to me.  Being one of my all time favorites since first read.  The contemporary graphic novel won multiple awards and catapulted one of todays most talented writers careers.  With unique style and theme it brought a fresh view to the Canadian comic scene.  The comic has become one of the most influential modern candiana fiction stories out there.

Originally released between 2008-09 the trilogy was collected into a single, graphic novel in 2011, by Top Shelf Productions.  Written and illustrated by Jeff Lemire, who fought the odds against him and broke through an established publication scene with a humble tale of a small town in Ontario, Canada.  No magic, no super heroes, no space ships.  He did it with great story telling, and simplistic art work.

Essex County is divided into a trilogy, Tales from the Farm, Ghost Stories, and The Country Nurse.  Each installment featuring a different characters story in the small community.  As you read through, the connection between the three main characters becomes deeper and more relevant.  Gathering the pieces of one families history and lineage.  Each tale is unique, and equally interesting, bringing their own piece to the puzzle.  With an emotional ending that brings the series full circle.

Mr. Lemire is a powerful writer, every work I have read from him I have cared for the characters after the first couple pages.  The realism and flaws he is able to convey brings these characters into your heart in a magical way.  The author understands human nature and anxiety in a profound way, and is able to convey that in every page.  Using poetic imagery in his artwork, capturing you into his world; giving his stories their own pulse and emotion.

One element that was interesting and truly Canadian, was the use of hockey as a constant, and a tool of chronology.  As the story jumps around generations there is one continual theme, the Toronto Maple Leafs.  The major sports franchise of the local area.  As a fan of hockey I was able to see what timeline we were in by who was on the Maple Leafs line up.  Bringing the story alive with a fragment of real life.

As I mentioned Essex County has a special place in my heart. In 2010 my beautiful son Zyler was born.  I struggled as I dealt with the financial burdens and his mothers very real, very destructive, addiction issues.  Book buying was at the bottom of my list and life was weighing on me hard.  Then I got my library card.  I had a place I could escape to for an hour, and every book I wanted was available to me.  Specifically the graphic novels which get very expensive.  The first book I picked up was Essex County, and I probably read it a dozen times over the next couple years.  The story spoke deeply to me, enveloped me and brought my own fears and emotions out.  I felt uplifted by the story, and gained the confidence to face the issues that burdened my family. As I think back on the struggles Zyler and I faced through a turbulent separation, this book was there for me.  I consistently borrowed this book from the library for myself and to share with others.  Last fathers day, my amazing new partner and two great children bought me my first copy, not even understanding the emotional importance of the gift.

I obviously give Essex County 5/5 and its the pinnacle of what I compare graphic novel story telling to, today.  I recommend this book to book readers of all kinds, shapes, and sizes.  I have shared this series with many people in my life, they may not all have the deep connection I have for it, yet they have all been captivated into binge reading the thick graphic novel, and all agree on the stories strength.

Thanks booknerds, I hope you all find a story that is as invaluable to you as this one is for me.

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