The Joy of Quitting

Ignatz Award-winner Keiler Roberts (My Begging Chart) collates a decade of work from five previous titles--Powdered Milk (2012), Miseryland (2015), Sunburning (2017), Chlorine Gardens (2018) and Rat Time (2019)--in The Joy of Quitting, a summary of much of her life thus far. Reading Roberts is not unlike stumbling on someone's rather private diary.

Motherhood is an essential topic, starring precocious daughter Xia, who knows the alphabet at age two and "poops a 'T' "; is allowed to say naughty words in the bathroom (but breaks that rule often); and who thanks Roberts for drawing her into her books. Roberts reveals her physical and mental struggles with multiple sclerosis, her bipolar challenges and her therapy sessions. Scrutiny extends to all her relationships: she brusquely cuts off dinner conversation with her husband when a topic has been repeated "at least three times" and compares herself to a friend by saying, "I guess I'm better off than you."

"I think I started making comics," Roberts confesses, "so I could stop fearing the loss of my irreplaceable things." By this she means not just her favorite vodka glass but, even more so, the intangible moments: "the combined smells of bleach and soft serve" at Dairy Queen; conversations with her dog; her 14th anniversary of a "marriage [that] has been an eternity." Her seemingly unfiltered comics, presented as crisp black-and-white line drawings with and without panels, are an antithetical--perhaps even antidotal--reaction to the glossy presentations ubiquitous on social media. Little is off-limits here as Roberts (literally, visually) bares all, certain to induce welcome nods of utter understanding from many readers. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

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