Bottomless Belly Button, a 720-page(!) graphic novel takes place during a couple of days in the life of the Loony family, which includes two elderly parents, three children, and a couple of grandchildren. The family has gathered together at the coastal home of the elder Loonys who have called everyone together to announce that, after 50 years of marriage, they are getting a divorce, because they no longer love each other.
Each child and grandchild takes the news differently, and author Dash Shaw brilliantly weaves the multiple story lines together to create a funny/tragic tale of a family at the brink of falling apart. I like Dash's intelligently-restrained creativity with the comic medium, such as portraying one of the adult Loony children as a frog, because he thinks the rest of the family members see him as one. I was mesmerized through the entire book.
From the Amazon.com review:
The eldest child, Dennis, struggles with his parents' decision while facing difficulties of his own in his recent marriage. Believing that his parents are hiding the true reasons behind their estrangement, Dennis embarks on a quest to discover the truth and searches through clues, trap doors, and secret tunnels in attempt to find an answer. Claire, the middle child, is a single mother whose 16-year-old daughter, Jill, is apathetic to the divorce but confounded by Claire and troubled by her own "mannish" appearance. The youngest child, Peter, is a hack filmmaker suffering from paralyzing insecurities who establishes an unorthodox romance with a mysterious day care counselor at the beach.
In a six-day period rich with atmospheric sequences, these characters stumble blindly around one another, often ignoring their surroundings and consumed by their own daily conflicts. Visually, Shaw employs a leisurely storytelling pace that allows room for exploring the interconnecting relationships among the characters and plays to his strength as a cartoonist–small gestural details and nuanced expressions that bring the characters to vivid and intimate life.
If the controversial R.D. Laing wrote an episode of The Simpsons, it might read something like The Bottomless Belly Button.
Mark Frauenfelder is the founder of Boing Boing and the editor-in-chief of MAKE and Cool Tools. Twitter: @frauenfelder. Come and hear Mark speak at the ALA conference in Chicago on July 1.