There are certain experiences in this world that no one should ever have to endure. Loss of a loved one, especially a child is one of those things. In Rosalie Lighting (published by St. Martin’s Press) cartoonist Tom Hart illustrates this difficult time.
In this book we see Tom, his wife Leela Corman, and his 2 year old daughter Rosalie. One day in November, Rosalie is found with blue lips, and not long after she has passed away. What comes next is the process of Tom not coping but trying to understand this horrible event. In the time after she has passed Leela and Tom work towards a new normal, but the feeling of loss is crippling. This graphic novel is a split into a few key parts: a celebration of her life (in many ways following Hart’s previous comic Daddy Lightning), the swiftness of what took her, what trying to come back from that is like, and what comes next.
Tom Hart’s cartooning is expressive and harsh. Dark, thick lines chronicle the events of this story, producing the joy and curiosity of a child in rememberance and the coldness of her death with reverence. Hart puts so much into putting this experience on paper, and that gets through, however he also seems very cognizant of the subject matter of the story. Interspersed throughout the story are some moments recapping Rosalie’s innocent and goofy comments and moments, giving the smallest semblance of fun Hart got to see in Rosalie.
Rosalie Lightning is not an easy read. There are a lot of difficult feelings drawn into these pages, all drawn from an unfair reality. I read this book and I thought about my son and the horrible “what ifs” out there and I felt for Tom and Leela. That being said, speaking as a fan of comics, this is an incredibly well crafted graphic novel. The art will grab you and forces you to feel, compelling you to see what Hart’s process is and where it gets him. You can buy Rosalie Lightning here, and be sure to check out the cartooning program that Tom runs at the Sequential Artists Workshop.