My inner black-clad, post-punk RebL soul is totally delighted that Maggie Thrash juxtaposes her memoir with one of Shakespeare’s ghost stories in Lost Soul, Be at Peace. And like angsty Hamlet, Thrash confronts her family’s past where many of us dare not tread. This graphic novel depicts all my teenage angst, though my angst had different origins than Maggie’s. The dark, moody tone reflects what many young people feel—including Hamlet.
I don’t know what to call this type of story because Thrash plays loose with convention so Lost Soul doesn’t fit tidily in any one genre. I like it, but it’s disconcerting at the same time—especially in combination with her dry observations. What, if anything, should the reader take seriously? Off keel is the perfect state for readers of this book.
This Thrash memoir takes place a year and a half after her other graphic memoir, Honor Girl. Maggie is depressed and flunking eleventh grade. She feels estranged from her patrician mother workaholic, federal judge of a father. Maggie loves her cat, Tommi, but Tommi disappears just when a ghost Tommy appears. Then hilarity ensues.
“To die, to sleep –
To sleep, perchance to dream – ay, there’s the rub,
For in this sleep of death what dreams may come…”
The question at this point is, is Tommi Tommy? Or perhaps Tommi represents lost mirth (p. 26). By extension, the same could be said for Tommy. Some Shakespeare peeps point out that the ghost in Hamlet shares commonalities with Hamlet himself. Is this true of Thrash and her ghost? Obviously, Hamlet’s ghost is his father and Thrash’s ghost is her [spoiler], but since her parents can hear Thrash talk to Tommy, it’s possible that for the sake of story, she and Tommy may be one and the same. And all people, ghosts and maybe cats are looking for clarity regarding a depressing family legacy.
Side notes: There are details in this book that connected with MY lost soul. For example the web search that resulted in advice to drink more water to ease depression and the idea that a person could rid themselves of real (and theoretically metaphorical) ghosts by repeating mantras. However, I was conflicted regarding Maggie’s comments on privileged classmates. I get it. I was underprivileged in a privileged school (still white, just comparatively under resourced). I get that her teenaged self wanted to stand up to the ignorance of her peers, but it felt retroactively imposed by the author. However, the part that did land was her acknowledging her own inability to craft an informed, effective response to racism and classism.
The publisher sent an ARC of the book that didn’t have any of the color finishing. Reading back through the ARC, I noticed how deeply readers can get into the text and illustrations. For example, Maggie’s mom often speaks outside her speech bubbles—chatter to which no one attends. In some ways, I preferred the melancholy grayscale illustrations. They reminded me of the darkness in Hamlet! Eventually, a final copy came into the collection where I work and I realized that the colors do make the story more accessible.
I enjoy Lost Soul more with each time I read it. It has been a while since I read Hamlet. In fact, I was probably about Thrash’s age in Lost Soul. Oh goodness, now I’m going to have to re-read Hamlet. “Remember me.”