Fun Home follows the coming-of-age of sorts for author Alison Bechdel, as she deals with the death of her father. She shares about life growing up, including the funeral home (or fun home) her family helped to run. As she looks back, she realizes how her father’s secrets have continued to impact her life.
Fun Home had high praise, but friends, I struggled to read this book. Maybe I have the wrong idea about graphic novels, but I don’t expect them to come with so much emotional weight attached. Yes, I knew basically what I was getting into when I picked it up, but at the same time, I didn’t.
Fun Home is heavy primarily because it focuses so much on the death of a parent. I lost my dad at the age of 17, and this was the first book that really made my own struggles and emotions with that time come back. It caused such a visceral reaction that I put it down for two whole weeks before I attempted it again. There was not one happy moment to balance out the plot. It’s filled with fraught family relationships, family secrets, and painful admissions of Bechdel’s own self-discoveries.
Now, I can read books that aren’t happy. Not everything has to be wrapped up in a nice tidy package with a cute bow at the end, but Fun Home left me feeling just like I did when I read Blood Meridian. (If you listened to my episode of What Should I Read Next? then you’ll know how much I absolutely hated this book.) I felt irritable after reading just a few pages, annoyed at the author, the plot, and my choice to keep reading it. It was draining. Bechdel shares her hate and despair for the sake of it as well as for the shock value. Because of that, I just wasn’t able to connect with Bechdel. Perhaps it was the negative vibe I felt every time I looked at the book that forced me to disconnect. Maybe I need to stay away from labor-intensive content and writing. Maybe Bechdel’s story just isn’t for me.
I’m definitely in the minority with my opinions. Nearly 40,000 people have rated it as a five-star-read on Goodreads. I read more than a fair share of reviews to see what it is that has drawn so many to Bechdel’s tale. They enjoy her pacing, her allusions to classic literature, her language-which is everything that made this book feel like too much work on my end.
Regardless of my negative experience with this book-I always appreciate finding those reads that don’t fit but still give me plenty to think and talk about, and this one definitely did. If you’re someone who can pick up an emotionally weighty book and not feel bogged down, then I think you should check it out. And if you’ve read it in the past and liked to share what you did enjoy, I’d love to hear what you have to say. The best book discussions are the ones where I get to see a different point of view!
TL/DR: What’s so fun about Fun Home? Nothing.
Rating: 2/5 stars
The way to Alexandra's heart is through a great book recommendation.