Friday, October 28, 2016

Libby's Dad by Eleanor Davis

Recently I've had a lot of chances to experience shitty cable. Between traveling and "getting away" and tagging along, I've been watching a lot of Forensic Files. Overall this hasn't been so great for my peace of mind, but it has been a deep dive into the terrible things people do to one another, especially the terrible things men do to women. I've been marinating in not only death, but in should-have-knowns and we-never-thoughts, and it was in this state of mind I picked up Libby's Dad.

Libby's Dad is set at a slumber party at the titular characters home. Snatches of the young party-goers conversation drive the story, as well as the thoughts of Alex, a big-eyed, pig-tailed girl, the youngest invited to the birthday. This framing is what makes Libby's Dad so powerful and chilling.

The girls discuss Libby's parents' divorce, trying to come to grips with what they've overheard about violence in the relationship in the face of the fun slumber party stuff they are experiencing in the moment. Weaving in anecdotes of seeing Libby's mom around town being sad about the end of a relationship and other life stuff,  half-heard parental judgement, and an unquestioned belief in the justice system, the girls reassure one another that they are safe and that Libby's dad is no monster. The girls think what is easiest to think, that Libby's mom is crazy, rather than that her dad is dangerous. The child's POV shows plainly and with force that the simple story is usually the reasoning of a child. We know what nasties go on in adult relationships. We know that a person can be "like, super nice" to children and terrible to their partners. We know victims are often doubly victimized by having their behavior and life picked over in public. We know that adulthood offers may opportunities to cry in public, whether you're "crazy" or not.

We know.

We know, so we should know better. We know, and there is heartbreak in knowing that likely each  of those girls will know too, more sooner than later.

And, of course, it's beautiful. I've always loved Davis's botanicals and they, as well as her boisterous color sense, are out in full force in Libby's Dad. Her use of colored pencil is perfect here, and makes the whole story a little more sinister for me. Pick it up now.