EW Staff
September 10, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Cartoonist Lynda Barry makes an impressive leap from strips to fiction in this nerve- jangling first novel. Written as the 1971 suicide note of teenager Roberta Rohbeson, Cruddy follows parallel narratives: One describes Roberta’s road trip, at 11, with her homicidal father; the other, her descent into drugs and suicide five years later. A cross between David Wojnarowicz and Dorothy Allison, Barry — via Roberta — depicts the gothic horror of an emotionally mangled family without a shred of self-pity, while piling on black humor (one character looks like ”a backyard puff fungus that had blown out all its spores”). Still, her story is so heartbreakingly macabre that it can actually be painful to read.

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