low v2Rick Remender’s Low series is so far one of my favorite discoveries this summer. Low, Volume 2: Before the Dawn Burns Us brings to light the tragedies that the Caine family was faced with in the first volume and expands upon the ways the mother, Stel, is trying to rise up and save who she can.

In the first volume, the entire Caine family is torn apart with the father dead and the two daughters torn away from Stel and her only son. She vows to bring the family back together only to fall into despair. The sun has gone radioactive forcing all of the Earth’s inhabitants underwater, knowing they cannot stay there forever and hoping for an eventual inhabitable world to be found elsewhere. Shoot forward ten years and a probe has been recalled to the surface of the Earth, one that shows Stel that there is an inhabitable world elsewhere. She must get to the probe first and  find her children along the way.

In volume 2, Stel wrestles with herself as she feels her hope in the future fading, something that had previously seen her through numerous bad situations. Stel struggles to salvage what she can of her mission to find the probe and ultimately save all of humanity, while a side story shows Stel’s estranged daughters working to find themselves and each other after their horrific split from their parents. One of her daughters, Della, is the relentless Minister of Thought, living in a totalitarian state where hope and optimism are squashed. Stel and two members of Marik’s surviving gladiator team are still searching for the probe. This second volumes is full of tragedy, loss, and hopelessness, but is ultimately about what happens to all of us when we lose hope and try to find it again.

low v1Low, Volume 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender blew all of my science fiction/fantasy/graphic novel expectations out of the water. Even though the woman on the cover, Stel Caine, the matriarch of the Caine family, is wearing heels, she is an incredibly strong and powerful leader who leads her family and community through despair. Her belief that human consciousness can change your reality pushes her through dark times, leading her to believe deeply that hope can change anything, no matter what the people around her may say or do or what her current circumstances are.

In this first volume, Low begins by introducing you to the Caine family, mom Stel, dad Johl, and their three kids. Many millennia in the future, humanity was forced to abandon the earth’s surface and take refuge underwater because of the sun’s intense radiation. They knew that living underwater would only prove to be a temporary solution as the sun’s radiation would reach them eventually. As a result, the first batch of mankind to live under the waves sent probes into the galaxy to look for inhabitable worlds, knowing their great-great grandchildren would be the only ones who would benefit from the results. Generations later, the Caine family is in control, fighting off invaders and trying to keep their lives together. A great disaster alters their family forever and the Caines are forced to reach deep within themselves to try to find the strength to survive. Grief cannot be given control leading Stel to work to find a solution to both the loss of her family and the necessity of finding a new inhabitable world quickly.

Tocchini’s artwork grew on me. His work is sketch-like with colors that are rich, but also at the same time, muted. His style of drawing really leads you into the different scenes and the different places underwater that the characters find themselves traveling to. I recommend you check this out! (I’m currently deep in the second volume, so stay tuned for a review of that one!)

Naomi Levy wrote Hope Will Find You as she was in the midst of her daughter’s health crisis. Spending much of her time in doctor’s waiting rooms, and trying to deal with the uncertainty of the diagnosis, Naomi began, unsurprisingly, to show signs of depression. She’d suspended her enjoyment of life and her career as a rabbi.

This book is a series of very short chapters that chronicle her climb out of that despair. She gains wisdom from other rabbis, mentors and, most of all, Noa, her daughter. Noa suffers from learning and physical disabilities, that may or may not be fatal. She is incredibly positive and energetic, and she is the one who actually comes up with the title.

One of Naomi’s breakthroughs is a realization that she can’t let her fear of the unknown destroy the happiness she can enjoy with her family and friends now. As Naomi lets go of her crippling fear, she is able to go back to work and even starts a new congregation.

Not only is her story inspirational, the book is a fascinating glimpse into Judaism and the Jewish principles of faith.

The Great Depression of the 1930s was the longest, most widespread and deepest depression of the 20th century. It’s effects were devastating – unemployment rose to 25%, even 50% in hard hit areas, and people struggled simply to get food on the table. Gifts for Christmas – let alone extravagant overspending – was impossible for many families and the holidays were just another day to get through.

Into this bleak landscape, in one of the most desperate areas of the country, a message of compassion arrives. An anonymous ad is placed in the Canton, Ohio newspaper offering 75 families in distress a cash gift. Letters were to be sent to a “B. Virdot”, General Delivery. Within days the post office was deluged. The mysterious “B. Virdot”, whose identity was never revealed, gave a modest gift of $5 (which, in 1933 was worth close to $100 today) to 150 families, spreading cheer – and more importantly hope – not only to them, but to others desperate to know someone still cared.

Nearly 70 years later, Ted Gup was cleaning out papers that had been left to him by his grandfather when he came across a cache of letters all addressed to a “B. Virdot”. Here at last, the mystery of who this anonymous benefactor was and why he did it are revealed and recounted  in A Secret Gift. In addition to discovering his grandfather’s life story, Gup tracks down many of the recipients of his grandfather’s gift and it’s impact on their lives. The stories of hardship are heartbreaking but the power of even such a small gift and it’s ability to turn people’s lives around is an inspiration.