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The Wayside, Julie Morstad, 120 pgs, Drawn and Quarterly, drawnandquarterly.com, $19.95

There is something magical when a visual medium, such as illustration, can be so effective at story-telling. The symbolic and poetic richness of Julie Morstad’s The Wayside, is such a simple and eloquent example of water colour’s narrative potential. And it’s all bound in a beautiful hardcover book that feels like an intimate artifact, a diary or journal.

These sensually shy vignettes explore themes of feminine identity, childhood, adolescence and early adulthood, sifting through the layers of personal transformation and engaging in experiments in self-reinvention.

There’s the guy playing guitar for a picnic table of cute hipster girls (you can tell they are hipsters by their described thinness, only achieved through a diet of cigarettes, vodka and soba noodles). There are girls trying on clothes, on swing-sets, attending dances.

The Wayside is a catalogue of human rituals that hide the gravity of their own meaning, nonetheless suggesting a deep, complex (and in hind sight, self- aware) inner-life.

However, it should be stressed that Morstad goes beyond and beneath mere nostalgia and whimsical recollection. This is a collection of carefully curated emotions and memories parsing the trauma and elation, the circumspection and confusion consistently confronting us as we make our way through this life one page at a time.

Musical accompaniment suggestion: The Rolling Stones’ “As Tears Go By,” anything by Joanna Newsom or Neko Case’s Fox Confessor Brings the Flood, the latter of which Morstad contributed all the drawings, including the cover. (Justin F. Ridgeway)

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