Bird in a Cage is a bittersweet tale of family and identity, and is one of the most touching graphic novels I have ever read! As someone who has an elderly father, I felt that the story resonated with me powerfully and at times brought tears to my eyes. That’s not to say that Roher’s tale is a dismal one, quite the contrary in fact; Bird in a Cage celebrates the life of a special woman, who is a Grandma, Mum and is at the very heart of her family unit.
When Rebecca Roher’s Grandmother is hit by a car and she suffers a brain injury, it brings on the early on-set of dementia. We see her decline fairly rapidly from that moment onward and it is the love of her family which helps to support her in such a confusing time.
Roher’s illustrations and prose are seemingly simple in portraying the life of her Grandma, yet unbelievably potent in their delivery. The sense of family and the love they feel for their Grandma, and her love for them is so strong, that it’s almost tangible. There will be many times where the urge to ‘aww!’ is too strong to ignore. I can safely say that it struck a chord with me, one I will remember for years to come, and I am certain that it will do the same for many others.
Drawing from personal experience, I know what it can be like to have an elderly member of the family who loses touch every now and then. Although not one with dementia, it can be a difficult time for those closest to the individual, having to watch the decline of memory and person in one you love and cherish.
Saying that, there is some humour to be taken from their behaviour. We are told of her Grandma’s frequent ‘escapes’ where one in particular stood out to me. After much searching from her family and when she is finally found by the police, her honest and yet hilarious explanation of ‘it started to rain, so I waited in the bottle on the other side of road…’ (which is, of course, a bus stop) is utterly amusing, and intensely heartrending!
I could emphasise with Roher’s feelings of nostalgia that comes with the deterioration of one so loved and how her Grandmother’s behaviour begins to reflect that of a lost child. The trick is to remember them for the person they were and that is what the family begins to do in Bird in a Cage. We see them rejoicing in the memory of a doting Grandma and Mother, and how those memories bring them even closer together.
Bird in a Cage encourages awareness of those affected by dementia and how the disease can also affect the surrounding family, as well as being a heartfelt and proud tribute of a devoted and loving Grandma. Poignant, striking and compelling, Roher’s tale will leave a deep-rooted and everlasting impression for all those concerned.
Bird in a Cage by Rebecca Rohen is published by Conundrum Press on 31st March 2017
(£13.99, p/b, 112pp, 9781772620054)
Post by Sarah