Review – Hobo Mom (Fantagraphics)

Publisher: Fantagraphics
Writer: Charles Forsman
Artist: Max De Radigues

After a number of years spent ‘riding the rails’ and living a hobo lifestyle disguised as a man, a mother returns to the husband and daughter she abandoned. But how will her family react to her reappearance, and will they still want her to be a part of their lives after all this time? More importantly, will she?

The latest graphic novel offering from The End of the Fucking World’s Charles Forsman and Belgian cartoonist Max De Radigues, HOBO MOM is a simple tale well told. A beautiful showcase of restrained storytelling, we meet our title character Natascha as she experiences the more brutal, violent side of the hobo lifestyle, before returning to her daughter Sissy and estranged husband Tom in what appears to be a desperate attempt to reconnect with the former – albeit without actually telling her daughter who she really is.

It’s what the characters aren’t saying that really pulls you in here, with some fascinating, delicate and tense interactions between the trio. Sissy remains oblivious to who their guest actually is throughout the course of the story, but is still piqued with curiosity about the newcomer’s physical and emotional maturity. Tom on the other hand is very much a broken man bottling up and concealing his pain to protect his daughter.  However, in spite of this he clearly still loves his wife dearly, and their emotional and physical connection still runs deep.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this story – for me, at least – is the mystery of Natasha’s motivations. It’s clear from the opening pages that her hobo lifestyle is far from glamorous, and yet there’s something about it that clearly appeals to her, pulling her away time and time again. It’s this longing that serves as the heart of the story, wrenching her family apart in the past and threatening to do the same again in the present.

I also really liked the fact that creators have opted to give us a tantalisingly brief snapshot of the characters’ lives, focusing on the way they are now rather than bogging us down with unnecessary flashbacks. It’s a smart approach that gives some real immediacy to the situation, and while we don’t know exactly what happened in the past or what happens after we turn the final page, the heartache of the situation for all concerned is more than though to make the story stick in the reader’s mind long after they’ve put the book down.

HOBO MOM features a seamless collaboration between artist and writer as the pair combine to deliver a stripped-down story packed with nuance, emotion and understatement. Sometimes an unexplained longing for independence and freedom can be a painful experience for all involved, and while this isn’t a romanticized story with a tacked-on happy ending, the stark reality of the situation and the beautiful complexity of the characters still makes it a thoroughly rewarding read.

Rating: 4/5.

The writer of this piece was: Craig Neilson-Adams (aka Ceej)
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1 Comment on Review – Hobo Mom (Fantagraphics)

  1. This book piques my interest! I will have to see if I can track down a copy at my library.

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