Under the new books section of my local library I found the graphic novel Lola, a Ghost Story. Lola is the story of a boy Jesse who is heading back to the Philippines due to the recent passing of his grandmother. Now normally this would seem like a no nothing story, but Jesse shared a gift with his grandmother. He like his grandmother has visions and can see the dead. Of course the grandmother was probably just considered full of eccentric stories, but for Jesse it is a little bit harder because who would ever believe him?
The story itself is about this close knit family and a lot of it is re-telling the stories about the grandmother and the life she lived, as well as Jesse dealing with his own demons in a lot of ways. It is a beautiful, simple, and sad story that walks the line between the imagination of a child and a gift that they might not know how to share or talk about. The one person who could understand was probably the grandmother!
One of the things that I liked about this story is that it occurred in the Philippines. I don’t know if it did, but I am kind of hoping that it included some cultural elements of the Philippines because it just adds an element to the story because it takes place there. Some of the interesting points was the prominence of the Christian church, but at the same time the belief in the myths and legends of the past. The grandmother had a gift apparently and they tell various stories about her gift, but at the same time apparently she was very big about making sure all the kids and grandkids were baptized. I found the combination of a religious Christian faith with keeping the belief and view of the myths and legends pretty interesting. The other piece that is interesting is the fact that Lola means grandmother in Tagalong, making the title of the story really, grandmother, a ghost story.
So most of the myths and legends that we hear about come from the stories about grandmother herself. Her finding a demon child in the woods, seeing a vision that helped her parents make a sound business decision that paid off, and of course seeing the dead. We very quickly discover that Jesse seems to have the same gift as his grandmother, but unfortunately he does not embrace it as much as his grandmother did. Some of that is probably coming from the United States and the fact that as time goes on the world has moved past certain beliefs. Even though it is called a ghost story it is not just about ghosts, but about the mythical and unimaginable. The things that most people hear stories about, but never see in real life.
Even with the myths and legends that are mentioned the story is really about family. The reason that Jesse and his family are traveling to the Philippines in the first place is because grandmother Lola has passed away and the family is getting together for the funeral. The entire family is there and so are all the family stories and secrets. It is sweet how the family interacts with each other and the stories that they tell about life with the grandmother. All the aunts and uncles are there as well as the cousins. They all have a history with each other and this family dynamic plays out, as well as the revealing of some tragic family history that has a strong connection to Jesse. There is a lot that happens in the story, but it really is a look at specific event in time and using that to relate and connect Jesse to his grandmother.
I would recommend this graphic novel / comic because it is a sweet tale with some hints of mysticism and the power of belief and imagination.