Bloomington High School North Library

Bloomington High School North

Fun home : a family tragicomic

Review by Kim Smith on March 31, 2016

Categories: Graphic Novel

Alison’s dad is an artist. He doesn’t paint or sculpt, but he knows how to put a room together so beautifully that it looks fake. In fact, according to Alison, the rooms that her father put together were so beautiful that they were unlivable. Alison’s father has a talent when it comes to the beautiful, the cold, and the dead. Being a masterful furniture artisan and the head embalmer of a family-owned funeral parlor, he gradually teaches Alison to grow up stoic and unaffected. Alison’s mother, a calculating former actress, is no better. She memorizes lines like her life depends on it, and acts more like a distant relative than a mother. This tendency toward emotional unavailability reaches into Alison’s adulthood as she begins to explore through life, and even more as she comes to terms with the fact that she is a lesbian. Away at college, Alison finds that there is a word for the way she’s been feeling her whole life: gay. She stacks gay literature on her desk and quickly reads all of them. She finds a girlfriend and comes out a gay to her family. Her mother responds to her daughter’s coming out with a hard letter condemning Alison’s “life choice”, asking her to reconsider. However, though her mother was completely unsupportive, her father surprisingly had no real problem with it. He accepted it with no second thoughts, and Alison found solace. All was well.
That is, until her father got hit by a semi truck and died.
Going into the same funeral parlor that she has basically grown up in to see her father’s body in a casket is disillusioning to Alison, and she struggles to cope. She sees her brother and all either of them can manage is an ill-timed grin. Neither of them can believe that he’s dead. To them, the idea of their father being dead is so odd that it’s funny. Alison’s mother isn’t crying. She’s talking about selling the house that Alison’s father had poured his entire adult into creating. She wants to sell the furniture that he spent hours crafting, scrap the art that he spent years hunting down, give away the books that he spent his lifetime leafing through, and Alison doesn’t protest. To Alison and her siblings, the house was never really a home and more of a museum. It always had to be dusted and polished, was never to be played in, always to be maintained. Alison swears that she and her brother knew how to polish silver and clean velvet before they knew how to add and divide. Alison’s learned how to keep a comfortable home of her own with a woman she loves, and has no issue with her mother erasing a house that holds nothing but memories of discomfort. Alison is so accepting of her mother’s choice that she doesn’t even question why. But her mother told her anyway.
She tells Alison that her father had had an affair. Alison is hardly shocked; she knew that her parents hadn’t been happy for a long time. Then she tells Alison that he had had an affair with Alison’s old babysitter William. While he had been babysitting them. This is more than enough to shock Alison. Not only would this mean that her father was gay, but, since William was seventeen when he was babysitting them, this also means that he was a pedophile. Alison is reeling. Fun Home is a beautifully written story that follows Alison’s path to accepting both herself and finding out more about her father. It’s a quick yet dense read.