Bottomless Belly Button

Writer(s): Dash Shaw
Artist(s): Dash Shaw
Publisher: Fantagraphics
ISBN: 978-1560979159
Price: $29.99
Page count: 720
Year Released: 2008
Status: in print
Original Source: n/a
Other Collected Edition(s): none
Genres: literature; romance/relationships
Recommended for Fans Of:
Possibly Objectionable Material: nudity; explicit sexual situations; coarse language
If You Like This Book, Try:
Also in This Series: n/a

Plot Summary
After forty years of marriage, Maggie and David Loony summon their three grown children to their beach house to announce that they are getting a divorce. Dennis, their oldest son, takes this news the hardest and, when his parents refuse to elucidate the reasons for their decision, he takes it upon himself to try and solve the mystery. His sister, Claire, uses the visit to bond with Dennis's wife, Aki, while Claire's teenage daughter, Jill, visits a friend in the city. Meanwhile, Peter, the youngest sibling, who seems to have spent most of his life alienated from the rest of the family, spends as much of his time as possible away from everyone else and meets a girl named Kat on the beach. As his parents' relationship comes to an end, Peter begins one of his own, with all the awkwardness and misunderstandings that the early stages of a burgeoning romance often entail.

My Own 2 Cents
Bottomless Belly Button reflect Tolstoy's idea that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. It is a book in which not much happens but, instead, Dash Shaw explores a singular, transformative event (i.e., divorce) in a family by focusing on the inconclusive conversations, subdued emotional interactions, and various coping mechanisms that are typically sparked by such a painful revelation.

But this hook is really just a way for Shaw to follow his characters as they continue going about their lives as they cope with this news. Peter, the outcast, is by far the most interesting character to me, not least because he imagines himself as resembling a frog (and thus that is the way in which Shaw illustrates him--with the exception of one telling instance). But each character has his or her moment in the spotlight, with those moments amounting to not much more than going for a jog on the beach, shopping for groceries, taking a bath, and so on.

The book is aptly named, for there's a lot of navel-gazing going on here. But Shaw is a deft storyteller and kept me engaged with his characters. As in real life, there isn't much of a resolution to this story, but the book nonetheless feels complete.