Superheroes have always been Leia Birch Briggs’ weakness. One tequila-soaked night at a comics convention, the usually level-headed graphic novelist is swept off her barstool by a handsome and anonymous Batman.
It turns out the caped crusader has left her with more than just a nice, fuzzy memory. She’s having a baby boy—an unexpected but not unhappy development in the thirty-eight year-old’s life. But before Leia can break the news of her impending single-motherhood (including the fact that her baby is biracial) to her conventional, Southern family, her step-sister Rachel’s marriage implodes. Worse, she learns her beloved ninety-year-old grandmother, Birchie, is losing her mind, and she’s been hiding her dementia with the help of Wattie, her best friend since girlhood.
Leia returns to Alabama to put her grandmother’s affairs in order, clean out the big Victorian that has been in the Birch family for generations, and tell her family that she’s pregnant. Yet just when Leia thinks she’s got it all under control, she learns that illness is not the only thing Birchie’s been hiding. Tucked in the attic is a dangerous secret with roots that reach all the way back to the Civil War. Its exposure threatens the family’s freedom and future, and it will change everything about how Leia sees herself and her sister, her son and his missing father, and the world she thinks she knows.
Such a fresh, candid story about family, sisterhood, and the South. I’ve never read anything like this, it was so unique. Both contemporary and classical components, mixing graphic novels and comic conventions with church politics and race relations in Alabama.
Leia’s family is so messy and complicated it’s incredibly relatable. The writing feels honest and the relationships within aren’t sickly-sweet or pure animosity. They have a history, and it’s a great reminder that our memories are coloured by our own biases, that two people living the same life can have incredibly different interpretations. This is shown over and over again with different characters as their relationship is explored and their histories relived.
All of the characters live their own lives, they don’t just seem to be backdrops to Leia’s story. The whole world doesn’t stand still while one story unfolds, there are multiple side-plots and scenarios throughout exploring just about anything and everything a family could go through, all at once. It felt real and I believed all of it, no matter how improbable or unlikely.
I would highly recommend this to everyone. Very enjoyable read covering so many different issues.