Every now and then you come across a book that is so needed, so poignant, and yet so incredibly difficult to respond to in words rather than tears. For me, that was this book. Ink In Water is not for the faint of heart, but it’s most definitely a book that ought to be read.
Title: Ink In Water
Author: Lacy J. Davis
Illustrator: Jim Kettner
Publisher: New Harbinger Publications
Expected Publication Date: October 1, 2017
Genre: Biography, Memoir, Graphic-Memoir
Themes: Relationships, Eating Disorders, Addiction, Body Positivity
My Rating: 4.5/ 5
“Compelling, funny, occasionally heartbreaking, and full of genuine hope in ways that most graphic memoirs never achieve artistically. … Don’t miss this one.”
—Library Journal Starred Review
At once punk rock and poignant, Ink in Water is the visceral and groundbreaking graphic memoir of a young woman’s devastating struggle with negative body image and eating disorders, and how she rose above her own destructive behaviors and feelings of inadequacy to live a life of strength and empowerment.
As a young artist living in Portland, Lacy Davis’ eating disorder began with the germ of an idea: a seed of a thought that told her she just wasn’t good enough. And like ink in water, that idea spread until it reached every corner of her being. This is the true story of Lacy’s journey into the self-destructive world of multiple eating disorders. It starts with a young and positive Lacy, trying to grapple with our culture’s body-image obsession and stay true to her riot grrrl roots. And while she initially succeeds in overcoming a nagging rumination about her body, a break up with a recovering addict starts her on a collision course with anorexia, health food obsession, and compulsive exercise addiction. At the request of her last real friend, she starts going to a twelve-step Overeaters Anonymous course, only to find that it conflicts with her punk feminist ideology.
Blending bold humor, a healthy dose of self-deprecation, vulnerability, literary storytelling, and dynamic and provocative artwork by illustrator Jim Kettner, Ink in Water is an unflinching, brutally honest look into the author’s mind: how she learned to take control of her damaging thoughts, redirect her perfectionism from self-destructive behaviors into writing and art, and how she committed herself to a life of health, strength, and nourishment.
I can’t imagine this memoir in any other format than as a graphic novel. The simple act of sharing so publicly a personal battle is incredibly brave. And, considering the strength of the messages throughout, I will avoid completely my usual discussion on the fundamental issues with autobiography. I wouldn’t care if this were a complete work of fiction – it’s haunting, it’s beautiful, and it feels so raw and so real that I don’t give a flying hoot. It’s absolutely amazing!
The artwork was so insanely expressive and it did an incredible job of conveying the inner turmoil of Lacy’s dark thoughts. The choice to print in greyscale was particularly metaphoric as recovery from eating disorders is rarely black and white. A lot of the imagery was uncomfortable to look at, but this was never meant to be an easy read. But with that being said, those parts depicting happiness, love, and genuine recovery were beautifully rendered and uplifting. However, the element that I found most striking was the artistic usage of almost complete darkness the convey the gravity of certain situations. The panels are busy, the gutters mentally engaging, ultimately there’s very little ‘action’, and it all works beautifully to covey a candid and ultimately empowering story.
Finally, it was interesting to see the social aspect of Lacy’s journey. From Henry’s comments, to Gia’s persistence in not letting their friendship drop, and from Lucy’s relationship with herself to her journey of discovery with Kett. The imagery and expression of the graphic format conveyed so much more than words ever could, and I found myself constantly pausing to study the expressions and the minutiae of the details packed into every panel. And while I loved Gia, I really appreciated Kett’s empathy, understanding, and listening without judgement and I am really, really hoping that it’s same comic-drawing Kett from the memoir who has illustrated this beautiful book!
Would I recommend this book? Absolutely. But I know that being both a graphic novel and a book that talks unabashedly about topics (eating disorders, relationships, drug overdoses, etc.) that many people prefer to avoid I know that it may not be title for everyone. There’s swearing, there’s nudity, and *gasp* there’s even some implied heavy petting – so maybe not for the younger readers, but amazing none the less.
A HUGE thank you to Lacy Davis for sharing her story, and for sharing her messages of hope and advice.
Many thanks to Lacy J. Davis and New Harbinger Publications for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.