Stitches: A Memoir

David Small’s family doesn’t communicate. His childhood is full of silence and unarticulated feelings; “home” means nothing more than a place full of secrets and poorly expressed anger. David’s father is a doctor, and he treats David’s many minor childhood illnesses with an excessive number of x-rays. Believing he can cure his son, he instead achieves the opposite. David wakes up one day, from a supposedly simple procedure, with his throat stitched up like a boot, one vocal cord removed. He learns only later—and through a letter that he was not meant to see—that his parents had taken their silence further than he could have imagined: they had failed to inform their 14-year-old son that he had cancer.

As David adjusts to a life of imposed silence, he begins to lose himself in a world where he does have a voice. He starts to draw as a means to release his anger and frustration, as well as to create a place where he belongs. Through a therapist, David is able to recover his self-worth. He is also able to recover his voice, through an unlikely method. David learns to scream, and by screaming he both strengthens his voice and releases the fear and anger that had become such a part of him. In the end, David finds the courage to reject the madness of his family, and to pursue a life of fulfillment, and even happiness.

Stitches is just as depressing as it sounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable to read. David Small is a talented artist, and he communicates his story in a beautiful, if bleak, manner. Channeling a silent movie, he introduces the story with establishing shots and proceeds to tell a tale that requires very little dialogue. He emphasizes the distance between sound and silence, between what is said and unsaid. That he is able to tell his story at all is impressive. That he is able to tell it with such depth, such honesty, and such skill is really what makes Stitches so remarkable.

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  1. Bookish Hobbit

     /  December 7, 2011

    This sounds rather interesting. I’m going to see if my library has a copy!


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