Stitches is David Small's memoir told in the form of a graphic novel. At the age of six, it was discovered that Small had what was believed to be a cyst in his throat. His parents, lost in their own misery, decided to ignore the cyst for as long as possible and what was thought to be harmless turned out to be cancerous. During surgery to remove the tumor, the doctors took one section of Small's vocal cords along with his thyroid leaving Small essentially mute. The horror of the situation appears when it becomes clear that Small parent's never discussed his cancer with him and he was left to wonder why he couldn't speak. From this moment, we follow David through his troubled life to the point where he is able to leave his home and begin to make changes for the better.
Small's story, expressed mostly through pictures, is one of intense neglect and emotional abuse. David was raised in a home dominated by silence and lack of affection. His parents, unhappy with each other and also with their joint life, leave David and his brother to fend for themselves emotionally and isolation is a major theme. The loss of Small's voice further powers his isolation until he is rebellious enough to be referred to a therapist who helps him open his wounds in an attempt to heal. The visual format of this story is striking. One can truly say that often throughout this book, a picture speaks a thousand words. I also found it touching that there is very little written language throughout the book. Whether Small did this intentionally or not, I do not know but I thought it mirrored the loss of his voice brilliantly and increased the power of his art. This was my first foray into the world of adult graphic novels and while I did miss some of the written word, I also enjoyed the different style of this book. I would recommend it for readers who are open to discovering an emotionally charged story through a unique presentation.