by Kathryn Immonen and Stuart Immonen
Of all the books I bought at TCAF this year, I think that this is the one that I will treasure the most, mostly because Kathryn and Stuart Immonen really take their time when signing a book. Kathryn copied a number of words out of a Chekov novel to run perpendicular to the book's title on the title page, beneath which Stuart drew a lovely sketch of Olive, one of the book's protagonists. It took a little while, but made this a unique purchase.
Russian Olive to Red King is a lovely, lovely book. It's about a couple, Olive and Red, who live in a large city. Red is an art writer, while Olive is a researcher. We are given very few details of their life together, beyond meeting their dog, and learning that Red is not the most communicative of people outside of their relationship.
Olive leaves town for a while, to do some field work, but when flying into (I assume) Northern Ontario, the two-engine plane she is in goes down, and the pilot is killed. While she is all alone in a wintry environment, Red is left all alone in their apartment, and the rest of the book charts the emotional journeys they take separately, but together.
This is a very poetic book (it was reminding me of The English Patient long before the scene with the cave), and Stuart reveals the story slowly through large, open panels showing landscape and sunset. Towards the end of the book, the story switches into a section of prose, or prose poetry, more accurately, with sequences of abstracted drawings below them. The connection between image and words, and how this whole section relates to the rest of the book, is not revealed until the very end.
I feel like I might have appreciated a little more clear resolution at the end, but by saying that, I also think I'm just being a little simple-minded. This is a powerful and beautiful book.