In the hard-up town of Failin, OR, Lewis lives and works with his mother running estate sales, and chafes at her uptightness. At one sale, he meets Anne, who has two secrets: she shoplifts, and her mother, an assisted-living nurse, is a hoarder. This fine book is the story of Lewis and Anne's romance, but it's also a tale about a community's history, both ancient and recent, that describes how some of the unhappy adults in the duo's lives (including a cranky antiques dealer and an unemployed machinist) got that way and what some of them do about it. Writer Ryan deftly brings together the text's many strands and shows a fine ear for dialog; artist McNeil's accomplished, naturalistic cartooning fits the narrative well. Ryan also employs an effective storytelling tactic much neglected among contemporary comics scripters: narration, which she uses primarily to illuminate the characters' inner states, engendering reader sympathy for even the most difficult of them and lending the book an uncommon and welcome thoughtfulness. VERDICT By turns sweet and sad, tragic and hopeful, this small-town drama will both break hearts and win them.—S.R.
Two teenage lost souls struggle to find their future in the past of a dying town in the latest from novelist and comics creator Ryan (Rules for Hearts). The story, set in Falin, Ore., explores the idea that houses and their interiors are shadows of the humans who lived in them. Lewis works for his mother arranging estate sales. Anne, who lives with her hoarder mother, provides something positive for him to cling to when they share a bewitching moment while she lurks around a sale. Lewis’s confusion centers not only on his mother’s dominance in his life, but on his lack of a father. It becomes apparent that the other characters in the story share some links from the past, and Lewis and Anne must dig out the truth of these tattered strands of an earlier era. One of the keys: the lore behind the local beer, Faithful Angus, a memory of better times represented by empty bottles sold in antique shops, a bittersweet shadow over Falin. Ryan’s well-rounded sympathetic characterization and the scrappy energy in McNeil’s art make this a drama with true depth. (Nov.)