Keiler Roberts’ prowess, once again, shines in another frank and profound memoir. Presenting as a series of short, single perspective scenes, appearing to cover a period of time that Keiler was first coming to terms with an MS diagnosis, her newest work, My Begging Chart gently grounds itself in the bitter realisms of parenthood and illness, while managing to inform the colorless pages with an astonishing amount of warmth and levity.
The humor and humility of Roberts’ voice is so bare-bones in its honesty that the vignettes work as private, intimate memories, feeling like a special secret or memory shared between author and reader. In a single word, Roberts’ voice is sincere. Moments of lighted-hearted affection share space with bleak, unwound despair — a contrast that spotlights the subtle poeticisms inherent in the work. But at the core of the book isn’t a self-involved artists journey into self-discovery, but rather a powerful humorist’s study of lessons learned from familial melodrama.
Confronting the stark, white pages, are loud, black outlines of an angry, sad person swaying back and forth between personal moments of strife and success (not necessarily in that order) in a heartfelt effort to find some certainty and conviction. Presented in minimalist, simple line work of uncluttered panels, with an “overexposed” ambience, that establishes sharp and exact tonalities of the subjects within. Tension winds and then dissipates at truths revealed in the well delivered, and consistent gags.
Alongside Keiler herself — in as nearly as many panels — is her daughter Xia, who she is consistently at odds with. Their relationship is repeatedly portrayed as strained but caring, reflecting the similarities between the shocking growth of youth and the harsh changes brought on by age. Where Keiler learns to accept a new definition of her life as she grieves her old life, Xia learns the traits to being a daughter and a caregiver, their mirrored arcs make a provoking reversal to the coming-of-age archetype.
My Begging Chart doesn’t have the predictability of a medical drama, or the tribulations of a recovery story. Instead, Roberts’ illness takes a back seat to a narrative, neatly told as background among the almost trivial moments of everyday life — making an especially effective stage for quiet, thoughtful insights.
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