cover image Little Josephine

Little Josephine

Valérie Villieu and Raphaël Sarfati, trans. from the French by Nanette McGuinness. Humanoids, $17.99 (120p) ISBN 978-1-64337-534-2

Villieu and Sarfati chronicle life with Alzheimer’s in this poignant account of Villieu’s time caring for the elderly Josephine. An experienced visiting nurse, Villieu was nevertheless struck by the isolation and indignity of Josephine’s life: living alone, Josephine spent months wearing broken glasses, often missed meals due to spotty caregiving, and lacked access to her own money. Sarfati’s playful imagery in depicting these cruelties—negligent authorities are drawn as wolves—drives home both Josephine’s vulnerability and her retreat into a childish state of mind. As Josephine declines, the kindness of Villieu and Sandra, another of Josephine’s caregivers, stands out starkly against the sterile care of hospitals and nursing homes. As the narrative progresses, rigidly ordered panels begin to overlap and scatter, evoking Josephine’s jumbled state of mind. Though Villieu’s writing lacks distinction, her message is unmistakable and soulful: readers, if they live long enough, may become Josephine. In centering the day-to-day experience of elder care, Villieu and Sarfati show how that stage of life doesn’t have to be a tragedy—but only if society commits to doing better. (Apr.)