Review: You’ll Never Know

You’ll Never Know Book One
A Good And Decent Man

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So I’m averaging about one post a week now. Awesome. And I’ve even been a very bad Twitterer. But I hope things will settle down and you’ll get to hear from me more.

It’s Father’s Day and I think it’s a perfect day to review C. Tyler‘s You’ll Never Know Book One: A Good And Decent Man (Fantagraphics Books, 2009), her exploration of her father’s history as a World War II veteran and how it affects her current life.

The style of the book is beautiful. Done in soft watercolors (and watercolor pencils, from the looks of it), there is an old-fashioned airiness to the book. Many pages reminded me of antique, hand-painted postcards. The pages in which she tells her father’s story are done in a traditional/scrapbook format — handwritten text on the left, images on the right. Here, the images are done in sepia tones, mimicking old photographs.

While this is clearly the sort of material that could easily turn into “You screwed me up, dad!” Tyler avoids that. She obviously loves her father, for all of his flaws, and is proud to tell his story as well as learn about the events that shaped him. She doesn’t shy away from her father’s darker side, though, discussing his distant attitude when she was growing up and trying to make peace with it.

In the midst of recoding her father’s story, she is also coping with her estranged husband and raising her teenage daughter. Both parts of the book are neatly integrated. I always felt like I understood why Tyler wanted to do this at this point in her life. It’s her father’s story, certainly, but it’s also her story, and her mother’s, her daughter’s, her siblings. Her family’s past is echoed in the present and has shaped the choices she’s made and that her family has made.

The book ends on a dark note — the fun days of when Tyler’s father first joined the Army and met her mother are behind him and the specter of bloody fighting in Europe loom while Tyler herself faces more disappointment in her personal life. I can’t exactly call it a cliffhanger, but it did make me realize why this “Book One.”

But even taken on its own, You’ll Never Know is a touching and unflinching tribute to Tyler’s father. It’s a personal story, sure, but I think there’s something we can all relate to in discovering the histories of our own families.

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