Every family writes their own story, the pieces of which are retold every holiday. We all know our parts, and frequent performance has lent a veracity to all that we recite, even those lines that bear a resemblance to tall tale. Our family recitations are, for the majority of us, either the truth or very close to the truth. The details become a little skewed to accommodate our best versions of ourselves and those we love. These stories are celebrations.
What happens when familial distortions are rooted in large scale lies rather than harmless blurring is the stuff of Laurie Sandell's graphic novel/memoir, The Impostor's Daughter. This absorbing read (picked it up when I woke Sunday and was easily done before lunch) reveals the story of Sandell's volatile and larger-than-life father, and the uncovering of his lifetime of untruths concerning his pedigree education, employment, acquaintances with the famous and powerful, and suspect financial dealings.
The panel below says so much about the father and the author daughter who first worships him, and then outs him. Sandell's father may be brilliant but believes this exempts him from the rules that govern lesser intellects. He desires a life not rooted in the mundane so he creates one in his head, and holds his family captive to the lies through bullying. The little girl that loves him below is wide-eyed and awed in his presence, but we also see fear and then anger later on as she attempts a happier, Ambien-free existence as an adult. The best and worst parts of herself are so deeply rooted in her identification with her father that her future happiness depends upon both her figurative and literal detox. Dare you to put it down easily. Especially if you have some stories of dysfunction of your own to tell.
Note: The majority of images are the color ones you see above, but there are a few pencil drawing like the one at the top of the post that the author drew as a child. Notice the size of that noggin and the other telling details.