cover image Ruins


Peter Kuper. Abrams/SelfMadeHero, $29.95 (328p) ISBN 978-1-906838-98-0

This magnificent graphic novel by Kuper (The Metamorphosis, World War III) follows an American couple who decamp for Oaxaca, Mexico, for a sabbatical and creative recharge, only to get far more than they bargained for. Samantha is excited to find a new, quiet locale for writing her book while unemployed painter George can barely contain his anxiety. Meanwhile, a wordless parallel story follows a monarch butterfly on its lengthy journey south from the U.S. to Mexico. The pairing somehow works, though the elegant, aching beauty of the endangered butterfly’s symbolic flight over a series of woeful disasters—from farm worker inequality to the devastation of post-Katrina New Orleans—can’t help but overshadow Samantha and George’s more mundane story, even after they’re caught up in political unrest and the temptation of adultery. Partly autobiographical, Ruins was inspired by two years Kuper and his family spent in Oaxaca during the long, bloody teachers’ strike of 2006, during which police killed several protesters and a U.S. journalist. Richly illuminated by Kuper’s trademark light touch with relationships and steely political acumen, it’s a beautiful, epic roman à clef about the importance of seeking the new and questioning the old. (Sept.)