THE COUNTRY NURSE: ESSEX COUNTY VOL 3
Written and Drawn by Jeff Lemire
Published by Top Shelf
Anne Byrne makes her rounds through Essex County, rain or shine, seeing to the good health and welfare of the local populace. Whether it’s checking in on Jimmy Lebeuf and updating him on his father’s health, or seeing to Kenny, Lester Papineau’s guardian, she’s on the job. But her family history follows her everywhere. Her grandmother, Sister Catherine Byrne, once played a similar role in the community. Yet Anne is also stymied by her own inability to minister to her own son, bereft of his father for four years now. But ultimately, someone must lend their strength to the people, and Anne feels a responsibility to be there for those around her.
Along with Dash Shaw’s BOTTOMLESS BELLY BUTTON, Alex Robinson’s TOO COOL TO BE FORGOTTEN, and Blake Bell’s book on Steve Ditko, THE COUNTRY NURSE is one of the most anticipated graphic novels of 2008. The first two parts of Lemire’s ESSEX COUNTY trilogy (TALES FROM THE FARM and GHOST STORIES) were both among the best books of the year when they came out, and you had to be curious if Lemire could deliver an ending worthy of what he began. And with THE COUNTRY NURSE, he has done just that.
Tying together some of the threads from the first two books, and going backward in time to fill in some blanks, Lemire has finished his saga in rousing fashion. Anne isn’t perhaps as strong a personality on the page as some of the earlier characters, but it is her heart and determination to do right by people that begins closing some of the loops that he opened previously. Lester’s parentage, the Lebeuf family, the settling of the area itself… it all draws together here.
The art is brilliant and dynamic, and Lemire takes a little more time to work on atmosphere and symbolism here, opening things up and slowing down the pace a bit. Sometimes that’s a mistake, but here it matches the actual milieu on the page, so it works just fine.
One of the hardest things in writing (or filmmaking) to do is finish the story right. Not only right by the story’s logic, but also right by the reader and viewer who invested in the tale. Jeff Lemire stuck the landing. Hats off to him.