A sort of Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant told from the parent’s point of view, Paco Roca's Wrinkles tells a story as familiar as it is painful about the aging process and the loss of memory and identity that come with it. The story follows Ernest, an Alzheimer's sufferer, who is sent to an old age home to spend his last days coming to terms with the man he was and the man he is.
When published in Roca's native Spain in 2007, Wrinkles (Arrugas) gained acclaim and became a mainstream bestseller. Later Roca adapted it into an animated film that won two Goya Awards (Spain's Oscar.) Last year, the film, with Martin Sheen playing the main character, has a limited release in the US. Now coming to English for the first time, it's already a strong contender for graphic novel of the year.
The story begins right on the cover with an image that captures all that will follow. Memories are all that we are, and as Ernest leans out of a train carriage window on the cover, snapshots of his life fly from his open head, lost forever to the winds of time.
Ernest is losing his mind to age, and his children, tired of explaining that he is no longer working in a bank and of dealing with his fits of anger, place him in a care home where he meets a crew of other elderly characters: his new friend, Emile, a sly old trickster who extols the blessing of having no family to forget him; Adrienne the kindly grandma; Georgette and Marcel, the latter with Alzheimer’s and the former his life-long sweetheart; Rose, who lives in the memory of a train carriage on the Orient Express; Eugene the letch; Simone, always in search of a telephone to call her children who left her here by “mistake”.
Wrinkles is doesn't shy away from the sad and painful, but neither is it overly sentimental. It is a story of truth built with fiction, an observation of Roca’s own parents and those of his friends. In the world of the care home—and its horrific second floor where those who have truly lost their minds reside—there is no happy ending in the face of the relentless onslaught of age.
Roca shines a light on an issue that all of us have personal experience with and in doing so reminds us of the people that we are and will be. As Ernest slips into older, kinder memories, confused by his sudden age and placement, terrified by his prognosis, Roca shows us the world within and above all, how very necessary friendship, a knowing smile, and understanding can be.
Wrinkles (978-08616-623-71) comes out on January 22 from Knockabout Comics.