House of Sugar

Rebecca Kraatz, Author . Tulip Tree $10 (110p) ISBN 0-9781242-0-0

This strip ran in Halifax, Nova Scotia's The Coast Weekly from 2004 to 2006, and the collection shows that gems can come from obscure sources. These small, autobiographical-feeling four-panel episodes, with their heavy lines and slightly squashed faces, resemble high school drawings that have grown up. The style is oddly suited to the creator's obsession with the 1940s, such as when she compares a fall day to Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Lauren Bacall. The narrator delves into strange areas—small mesh rolls of hair called "rats" that women once used in hairdos—and seems happiest with love when it's gone. "I turned the high-powered sprayer onto our love letters and turned them into a pulpy pile of mush," she says. Later, when trapped in a barn with her heartthrob, she wants to escape. Bits of magic realism pop up unexpectedly, such as her brother's magic deer or the observation that "some of your soul can leave your body and be snatched up by a greedy baby." Completely lacking in wham-bam punch lines, Kraatz has a meandering, melancholy voice that seduces with its wistfulness, and this story is likely to appeal to any woman who ever flirted with anything alternative, or anyone who prizes an independent mind. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 11/13/2006
Release date: 04/01/2011
Genre: Fiction
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