cover image And Now I Spill the Family Secrets: An Illustrated Memoir

And Now I Spill the Family Secrets: An Illustrated Memoir

Margaret Kimball. HarperOne, $18.99 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-0-06300-744-4

With scalpel-sharp writing and tidy drawings, Kimball takes on a detective-like rigor as she unthreads her mother’s bipolar disorder and suicide attempts, her parents’ divorce, and the family history leading up to these defining events. It’s as if Kimball wants to push against the slippery nature of memory by researching (and reproducing) court records, home videos, maps, and blueprints. “Mental illness defies logic. That was and probably still is the limitation of my pattern-seeking brain, a mind that wants a clear story,” she notes. She’s particularly keen on dissecting 1988, the year that her mother downed pills and tried to hang herself; as a four-year-old, Kimball witnessed the aftermath but understood little. She delves into a past that includes her schizophrenic grandmother and the childhood drowning of her aunt (her namesake). She also jumps forward into her own adulthood, when her older brother breaks with reality. For all the tumult in her family, there is also ample love and care—her mom’s heartfelt letters; Kimball’s own nonjudgmental take on her brother’s QAnon-esque unhinged theories. Kimball suggests that her documentation is pathological in its own way, a “compulsion,” and just one more layer of reality in the multiverse. It’s a riveting reality to inhabit. Agent: Chad Luibl, Janklow and Nesbit. (Apr.)