cover image Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel: A Graphic Novel

Lena Finkle’s Magic Barrel: A Graphic Novel

Anya Ulinich. Penguin, $16 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-14-312524-2

Ulinich follows up her first prose novel Petropolis with a graphic novel window into the world of adult dating, and the result is an honest and absorbing tragicomedy about love, sex, and everything that goes with them. Lena Finkle (the name and title are a reference to a book by Bernard Malamud) is 37 years old, with two teenage daughters and 15 years of marriage behind her, when she embarks on a series of dates that open her eyes to a world of new experiences (like the fact that there are apps for dating). Desperate to find love after two unsustainable marriages, Finkle looks to dating as a way of opening herself up to the possibility of making a genuine connection with another person. She begins by taking us back to her childhood in Soviet Russia, relating her past events that shaped her attitudes toward love and sex. Ulinich’s visuals include inky portraits, often accompanied by panels bursting with dialogue, showing the novelist at work. The result is an affecting portrait of how we become who we are and how we try desperately to be who we want. (Aug.)