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Bitter Medicine 

Clem Martini and Olivier Martini (Freehand)

Two of Clem Martini's brothers have been diagnosed with schizophrenia. One is Ben, the youngest. The other is Olivier, or Liv, an artist. He illustrates this graphic memoir with a subtle hand. Spend time following the lines in his black ink drawings and his short, considered captions. This is his side in a long conversation, spanning some 30 years, with his brother Clem, a Calgary playwright. They revisit the early onset, the behavioural manifestations, diagnosis, deinstitutionalization and other detours and dead-ends in the health care system, drug effects (good and bad) and suicide: this latter subject is approached head-on and with heads on straight. There's no fixation on how it's done, but rather, and most importantly, how a life arrives at that breaking point and what simple preventative methods (two brothers routinely walking and talking together, for one) may help. These guys speak honestly to each other and about the others in their lives. Clem describes their father as a "short, bald, rather formal man who regretted every decision he'd ever made." That includes coming to Canada. Liv responds with a portrait of their father sitting, elbows on knees. The caption reads: "My Dad was an unhappy man. Tout est perdu au Canada." Much is lost because of mental illness. With books like Bitter Medicine, much is gained.

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Vol 27, No 28
December 5, 2019

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