The 2016 election haunts this story of a man's (actually a dog's) reactions to his failing marriage, but in this and so many other ways the delicately balanced storytelling avoids simplistic dichotomies and easy answers. The result is an empathetic portrayal of characters who hurt each other and themselves without understanding why, which ends on a note of ambiguous hopefulness.— From Stephen
Rage. Depression. Divorce. Politics. Love. A visceral story that you can see, taste, and feel.
How could this happen? The question of 2016 becomes deeply personal in James Sturm’s riveting graphic novel Off Season, which charts one couple’s divisive separation during Bernie Sanders’s loss to Hillary Clinton, Clinton’s loss to Donald Trump, and the disorienting months that followed.
We see a father navigating life as a single parent and coping with the disintegration of a life-defining relationship. Amid the upheaval lie tender moments with his kids—a sleeping child being carried in from the car, Christmas-morning anticipation, a late-night cookie after a temper tantrum—and fallible humans drenched in palpable feelings of grief, rage, loss, and overwhelming love. Using anthropomorphized characters as a tactic for tempering an otherwise emotionally fraught situation, Off Season is unaffected and raw, steeped in the specificity of its time while speaking to a larger cultural moment.
A truly human experience, Off Season displays Sturm’s masterful pacing and storytelling combined with conscious and confident growth as the celebrated cartoonist and educator moves away from historical fiction to deliver this long-form narrative set in contemporary times. Originally serialized on Slate, this expanded edition turns timely vignettes into a timeless, deeply affecting account of one family and their off season.
"James Sturm's Off Season is a big-hearted meditation on the shifting sands of family and manhood in our uneasy era—I swallowed this book whole and I'll be pressing it on anyone who asks me for a great read this year."—Emily Bazelon, Cohost of Political Gabfest
"A haunting examination of the inner life of men in the age of Trump. Off Season is the kind of novel we need in this moment, forcing us to confront the personal despair at the heart of our national destiny. I was mesmerized by every image, every word."—Steve Almond, Chost of Dear Sugars and author of Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country
“Off Season is a revelation… The soulful faces of Sturm’s nonhuman, all-too-human characters ask us to withhold judgment, hear out the other sides of the story.”—The New York Times
"This finely wrought, politically agitated graphic fiction recalls Raymond Carver, and speaks almost too painfully to the personal strife in today’s political climate."—Publishers Weekly starred review
“In the future, doubtless many dozens of regular novels will be written against the backdrop of Trump… I expect very few of them to reach the places this graphic novel does, so succinctly and with such seeming ease.”—The Guardian graphic novel of the month
"Quietly masterful… Sturm has responded to the present-day raw nerves and sense of dislocation with an eloquently relatable work."—Booklist Starred Review
"The ache of a specific sort of masculine longing and restraint is powerfully articulated [in Off Season,] a book that feels true to the current moment."—Boston Globe
"James Sturm’s spare, clean illustrations... offer glimpses through window panes onto a family’s life."—Chicago Tribune