By Leroy Douresseaux
August 7, 2008 - 13:10
Older Teen (15+)
Essex County Volume 3: The Country Nurse is the concluding volume in a trilogy of graphic novels by Jeff Lemire ( Lost Dogs). The Essex County books are set in an imaginary version of Lemire’s native soil of Essex County, Ontario. Characters from the previous Essex County graphic novels, Tales from the Farm (Vol. 1) and Ghost Stories (Vol. 2), appear in The Country Nurse.
The Country Nurse focuses on Anne Quenneville, a home health/traveling nurse who drives across the faming communities that make up Essex County to serve her patients. A widow, Anne is alone (except for her wayward son, whom we never see) and relies on her patients to be a second family. One of her favorite patients is Lou Lebeuf. Anne’s bond with Lou is actually a connection to Essex County’s past, going back to the early 20th Century, and as she completes her visits one day, her story delves into the history of Essex County and reunites the tattered remnants of a grieving boy’s family.
There is a painterly quality to Jeff Lemire’s art. Fluid line work unites with inviting pools of ink to form forlorn landscapes that make Lemire seem like a rural Edward Hopper. Heart-wrenching silence permeates the pages of The Country Nurse, just as it did in Tales from the Farm and Ghost Stories. In all this heartache, however, Lemire creates the kind of beauty that art can invent from sorrow. He finds a balance between the simple exquisiteness of stark rural landscapes and a richness of personality and humanity that emanates from the evocative cartoon faces of his characters.
In the end, what really makes these novels so wonderful is what Lemire does with this emphasis on the anger and sadness that comes from losing a loved one and the regret that comes from shattered relationships and bonds. With The Country Nurse, Lemire uses the quiet Anne Quenneville to heal and bring together. Sometimes, Anne has to be a rock and pound on her people, and other times, she quietly knits the tears in the family fabric with no one the wiser. Jeff Lemire, however, can’t get past us. We know that The Country Nurse is the closing chapter in a truly exceptional graphic novel trilogy.