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Tom Hart’s beautiful and touching graphic memoir about the death of his young daughter, Rosalie, and his family’s search for meaning in the aftermath of her loss
Rosalie Lightning is Eisner-nominated cartoonist Tom Hart’s beautiful and touching graphic memoir about the untimely death of his young daughter, Rosalie. His heart-breaking and emotional illustrations strike readers to the core, and take them along his family’s journey through loss. Hart uses the graphic form to articulate his and his wife’s on-going search for meaning in the aftermath of Rosalie’s death, exploring themes of grief, hopelessness, rebirth, and eventually finding hope again.
Hart creatively portrays the solace he discovers in nature, philosophy, great works of literature, and art across all mediums in this expressively honest and loving tribute to his baby girl. Rosalie Lighting is a graphic masterpiece chronicling a father’s undying love.
Tom Hart is a critically acclaimed Eisner-nominated cartoonist and the Executive Director of The Sequential Artists Workshop in Gainesville, Florida. He is the creator of Daddy Lightning, and the Hutch Owen series of graphic novels and books. The Collected Hutch Owen was nominated for best graphic novel in 2000. He won a Xeric Grant for self-publishing cartoonists. He teaches sequential art at the University of Florida and taught at NYC’s School of Visual Arts for 10 years.
Praise for Rosalie Lightning:
*A January 2016 Indie Next Pick*
*A Barnes & Noble Discover Pick*
*An Amazon Best of the Month Pick*
“A searing read… Hart’s meditation on loss draws on the work of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki and French intellectual Roland Barthes, among others.” —Boston Globe
“It’s a shadow, a stain, the pain that never goes away. There’s nothing like the death of your child, and conveying its mad mosaic of emotions, moods, thoughts and depths of grief is impossible. Artist, writer and teacher Hart stubbornly transcends the horror and invokes his craft to capture the array of mundane and extraordinary events he and his wife (amazing cartoonist Leela Corman) experience as they wrestle with the joy and horror of their infant’s life and death.” —Miami Herald
“This is obviously a deeply personal journey for Hart and one that he bravely allows us to look in on. Unlike most graphic novels, it doesn’t even read as if it is made for a reader. The narrative jumps back and forth between memories of Rosalie and the days, weeks, and months after her death, as he and his wife try to imagine how to go on without their child. This is a gut-wrenching account of a young family who must find some way to keep going. Those who have suffered loss in their life may find solace in Hart’s depiction of his own, while most parents will want to take frequent breaks to go hug their little ones tightly.” —Mental Floss
“If it’s hard to talk about Rosalie Lightning without sounding hyperbolic, it’s only because its achievement is so breathtaking: it is the bravest act of writing and bearing witness I expect to see in my lifetime. There aren’t words of praise sufficient to this brave, unblinking task. It will comfort the grieving for generations to come; I am profoundly grateful for this book.” —John Darnielle, author of Wolf in White Van
“Tom Hart’s Rosalie Lightning is honest, searching, burning, and beautiful. Every parent will find a piece of themselves in this unforgettable graphic memoir.” —Scott McCloud, New York Times bestselling author of The Sculptor
“I don’t know how Tom Hart was able to make such a stunning, harrowing book out of his devastation and rage; it strikes me as most gracious and humane thing anyone could possibly do. Reading Rosalie Lightning is like standing at the edge of an abyss and watching someone construct a gleaming titanium bridge by sheer, overwhelming force of love.” —Lauren Groff, New York Times bestselling author
“Only a cartoonist of tremendous skill and a father with loads of guts could piece through his heartbreak and come out with such a piece of art. I can’t read it without crying.” —Austin Kleon, author of Steal Like An Artist
Publishers Weekly Starred Review:
Hart (Hutch Owen) pulls poetry from pain in this tremendous book. Chronicling his memories of the life and death of his daughter, the eponymous Rosalie (who died at age two), Hart refuses to fall into the easy clichés of loss. The darkest depths are plumbed, from the overwhelming powerlessness of the experience to the absurdity of life going on in spite of it. Visually, Hart employs a choppily inked mixture of styles that recall the childlike simplicity of Peanuts as readily as midcentury horror work. The result captures young Rosalie’s wonder and beauty, and the hole she left behind. What catapults this graphic novel into greatness, however, is its honesty. Hart delves into details other creators might have excised—Rosalie’s favorite phrases, the odd thoughts one fixates on in the midst of catastrophe—and it is this candor that will likely leave many readers in tears. Rosalie Lightning is a masterpiece—and a luminous tribute to a brief, beautiful life.
Library Journal Starred Review:
The death of a child is one of the heaviest subjects imaginable, and to capture that devastation in a very cartoony style, as Hart (Daddy Lightning) does here, is no small feat. This beautiful and gut-wrenching book chronicles the sudden, unexplained death of Hart’s 23-month-old daughter and the beginning of the lifelong process of grieving that loss. Hart fills the pages with flashes of the mundane and transcendent experience of parenting a toddler, centering on the incredulous discovery of Rosalie’s lifeless body in her crib and drifting through the subsequent months of hazy despair. His pacing is what makes this book so extremely effective. By mixing up his time line and interspersing characters and scenarios from Rosalie’s and Hart’s own favorite stories, the reader feels the depth of his grief. As the parent of a young child, this reviewer could relate to Hart’s memories of Rosalie’s precocious nature and intoxicating smile, which reappear from time to time as the book progresses. This becomes ever more painful and beautiful as the full weight of her loss is realized.
Verdict: When grieving, friends can help with everyday tasks and your spouse can hold you while you cry, but ultimately you alone must bear the pain of that loss to integrate it into your life. That’s exactly what happens in Rosalie Lightning; a gift to every reader and to anyone who has grieved.
Booklist Starred Review:
When his daughter dies weeks before her second birthday, Hart and his wife are desperate for explanations, looking for portents in every moment shared with Rosalie in the days leading up to her death. While searching for relief from his oppressive grief, Hart tells the story of his family: the apartment in New York they are anxious to sell; their move to Florida; Rosalie learning to bounce a ball, draw pictures, and enter preschool. Sudden and unexplained, Rosalie’s death leaves them reeling. Hart’s artwork reflects his despair: the past is clear and crisp, the present muddy and heavily shadowed, and the future pitch black. Hart compares himself to a character from EC Comics’ seriesThe Vault of Horror, teetering at the edge of a pit, looking down into the void with no hope of escape. As time moves on and Rosalie’s parents begin to adjust to a life without her, faces become sharper and more in focus—but all it takes is something as ordinary as a phone call to pull him back to the edge of that pit. Using stories from popular culture, mythology, and folklore as metaphors for his own experiences, Hart takes an extremely personal experience of loss and grief and makes it universal. Incredibly moving, and stunningly executed.
THE GLOBE AND MAIL
Special to The Globe and Mail
Friday, Jan. 15, 2016
In 2011, Rosalie Lightning – the not-quite-two-year-old daughter of cartoonists Tom Hart and Leela Corman – died unexpectedly. Hart’s anguished book serves as a deeply thoughtful elegy for his child, meditating on the time leading up to and away from Rosalie’s passing, in a fugue of free associations. Memories flood these pages uncontrollably; dreams well up in them; beloved artworks – Miyazaki’s films, a Laurie Anderson song – take on profound new meaning after Rosalie’s death, as do the most minor events of her life. At one point, Hart asserts that drawing is a way for him to externalize anger, and each page of the book is choked with that rawness: black ink courses in rivers throughout, dabbed with ephemeral films of grey tone, while figures sometimes merit little more than a sketch, scratched out in coarse, indifferent scribbles. Art is what helps Hart give form to his grief; watching his pen and his brush gradually feel out the contours of his loss is inspiring.
Read two moving profiles and interviews with author Tom Hart in Publishers Weekly here:
And on Vulture.com here:
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