Cover of Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
I really love the way Alison Bechdel draws eyes. They almost always suggest a sense of weariness, even on children. Eyes are often said to be the most striking feature of the face, and in Bechdel’s characters, it’s true. There’s something emotional-yet-guarded about them. Which makes sense, as there’s so much being hidden amongst the characters in Fun Home.
Fun Home is a memoir about her late father, hit by a Sunbeam Bread truck in what may have been a suicide or perhaps just an unfortunate accident. Bechdel (known most for her acclaimed strip Dykes to Watch Out For) had just come out to her family, and in so doing, discovered that her father had also been gay (or perhaps bi) — and this happened only a few months before his death.
In a way, Fun Home is an exploration of guilt — Bechdel makes reference to feeling guilt in some way — that if she hadn’t come out, her father hadn’t have jumped backwards (“as if he saw a snake”) into the path of the truck. The book never fully answers whether or not his death was a suicide; the actual situation does sound like an accident, but when you think about how his family found out his secret and his marriage was over, it becomes a bit more nebulous.
The “Fun Home” of the title is what the Bechdel family called the place of their side business — a funeral home. (The title kind of reminds me of the scene in The Simpsons when Marge is at Sundance and sees a movie called “Candyland” and says “I get it! Every title means the opposite of what it means! Then I guess I’ll love… Chernobyl Graveyard!“) It’s not nearly THAT drastic, though Fun Home isn’t exactly the feel-good hit of the summer. But in a way, it’s uplifting; Bechdel, in coming out, is able to embrace who she is — even if she’d been kept from that in childhood — and in analyzing her past, she is able to understand and grow closer to her father, even if he wasn’t necessarily the ideal dad. It’s a great book — but, I suppose I don’t really need to mention that as it HAS been on about 80 billion “best book ever” lists. But, just in case you needed that extra nudge — definitely check it out.