As the troubled characters stagger from crisis to crisis as if punch-drunk, the country experiences its own separation. It’s grim stuff, mostly focused on a single father who just can’t get a break and is, frankly, an idiot. The subtext is plain, yet thought-provoking.The Toronto Star
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 through the fall of 2016—during Bernie’s loss to Hillary, Hillary’s loss to 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 are 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.
Praise for Off Season
Off Season, is a wintry domestic drama set against an economic downturn and snow. Lots of snow. The result is a punchy, beautifully crafted story that suggests a country in an anxious place.The Scotland Herald
At the heart of the book, the humanism of the relationships and their aura of palpable hopelessness and also of lingering hope, rings with a gut-wrenching consistency.The San Francisco Chronicle
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.Ed Park, The New York Times
Off Season’s subject is estrangement, political and emotional [yet] there is a sweetness here that both mitigates against the story’s existential sadness and deepens it, somehow. It democratises Sturm’s characters and, in doing so, reminds the reader at every turn that the US is growing ever less fair almost by the minute.The Guardian
In sombre, grey-blue tones, Sturm captures the wintry, desolate mood of a world with Donald Trump ascendant. Powerless to effect change, facing down foreclosed futures, everyone in Sturm’s book feels, as the President is so fond of saying, ‘like a dog.'The Globe and Mail
The unadorned style of Sturm’s drawing contributes to the book’s emotional tug, focusing our attention on the characters rather than the world around them.The Financial Times
Sturm doesn’t make the entire book about the election, but he maintains a strong political undercurrent throughout, reinforcing how partisan allegiances impact personal interactions even when no one is talking about the government.The AV Club
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, co-host of Dear Sugars and author of Bad Stories: What the Hell Just Happened to Our Country
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
What could feel like yet another Trump voter apologist pastiche becomes something much deeper and harder to bear, about loss and lost time. It was one of the first graphic novels of 2019 that I read, and definitely on my list of the best this year.PEN America
Sturm presents a masterfully illustrated meditation on masculinity, family, and the modern American psyche.
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, author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy
James Sturm’s spare, clean illustrations... offer glimpses through window panes onto a family’s life.Chicago Tribune
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
Sturm’s treatment of this poignant material is quietly masterful: elegantly simple line drawings toned with washed-out greys reflect the somber mood as well as the New England winter landscapes... Sturm has responded to the present-day raw nerves and sense of dislocation with an eloquently relatable work deserving of a wider readership beyond followers of graphic novels.Booklist, Starred Review
Quietly masterful… Sturm has responded to the present-day raw nerves and sense of dislocation with an eloquently relatable work.Booklist starred review