I had made myself a resolution that I'm going to review more books while I'm reading them, because my opinions are much clearer and I have a much easier time keeping my thoughts straight. But with this one, I don't think I had a choice but to wait for the end; I couldn't figure out if the book was about the journey or the destination. Having now finished it: journey, I think?
Displaced Persons, by Derek McCulloch and Anthony Peruzzo, is a graphic novel with a timeline running through it--and you need the timeline, and refer to it often, and maybe still can't keep track of what's going on. Really, it's several stories--a detective hired track down a missing woman in the 1930s; a hippie who's made the wrong enemies and his twin brother the undercover cop in the 1960s; a woman's troubled marriage in the 1990s. They're told in succession, in different two-tone shades (blue, gray, sepia), and each story is interesting and a neat little episode. The twins are the detective's grandsons; the wife is the hippie's daughter, so maybe it's a family saga.
But what promises to tie it together is the notion of missing people and found people--people vanish, and people appear. There's a place in the park, and if you wander through at the right moment, you find yourself in a different time, with no memory of yourself. At the beginning of the story, a small boy is brought to an orphanage; the detective's mother vanished when he was a boy; etc. I don't want to give them all away--the disappearances fit together and make their own little parallel story that no one in any of the main narratives knows anything about.
If all this makes it sound confusing--well, I'm sorry to say it kind of was. I had a bit of trouble telling some of the characters apart, and I couldn't help but wonder if all these stories, these impossibly complicated timelines (there is a timeline that runs between chapters, so you can follow how everyone is related and what happens to them between the events), were going to come together in the end. I mean, they fit together quite pleasingly, but at the bottom of it, you are reading three different stories, and they're not very closely related. I kind of expected a generational family saga, but it's only with effort that I'm putting together possible themes and connections, and even these seem tenuous.
I don't want to spoil, but here's an example: you could see a theme in the notion that if you choose a violent, narcissistic man for a mate, maybe it's somewhere buried deep in your family, because way back when that other guy was a pompous narcissist. But a) none of the intervening generations really lend themselves to that argument, and b) I can't actually remember if you're related to the pompous guy at the beginning, because the relationships are so complicated.
So what we have here are three interesting, well-told stories that did not come together to me in a way that made me understand what the author had to say about what he was showing us. Which is a shame, because each story had a lot of potential.
Thanks to Netgalley for the free review copy of this book.