Kmart Shoes

Lance Ward’s autobiographical graphic novel Kmart Shoes focuses on the author’s early years, a time of intense personal upheaval marked by divorce, the arrival of his mother’s abusive boyfriend, and a seemingly endless parade of bad breaks that could have potentially left him both emotionally and physically crippled. Fooling around with power tools and climbing to the top of a grain silo lead to broken bones, while experimenting with cocaine leads to addiction and, eventually, a botched attempt at robbery. Through it all, Ward struggles to make sense of the world, a struggle rendered all the more difficult by the fact that most of his family is  emotionally distant or has abandoned him completely. Yet for all of the bad breaks Ward suffers, the tone of this graphic novel remains upbeat, for Ward-as-narrator (as opposed to Ward-as-character) has lived through all of the difficulties of his youth and arrived in middle-age relatively unscathed. In this respect, Kmart Shoes shoes is a story of survival akin to Von Allan’s The Road to God Knows, but it is also a story of rage turned sideways to produce humor. Throughout, Ward comes off as an affable storyteller who’s risen above life’s bad breaks to offer hope to those still living through them. A memorable debut.

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