Shaw's book is truly top notch. The family drama was not initially engrossing for me, but it eventually drew me in with its well-drawn characters and interesting relationship dynamics. The characters' lack of communication, understanding, articulateness, and contentedness are painful yet often amusing. A reviewer complained that the characters lack depth, and perhaps there's some truth to this. However, one might make such a complaint about a Robert Altman film; for example, "Short Cuts." Nevertheless, such a film and such a book rely more for their effects on a composite approach. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. The narrative is deftly handled. Especially notable are the sections where various subplots are crosscut, quickly cycling through each seemingly unrelated narrative strand a number of times.
It is true that the book doesn't conclude with a resolution that neatly unties the knot. Instead, it does something much better, which is to finish mysteriously, emotionally, realistically, and poignantly. All this should suggest that if you like stock stories, then caveat emptor. If you like more literary fare, then you'll be right at home.
Shaw makes a somewhat amusing plea to the reader to rest between the three parts of the book. I suppose if I'd foisted a 700 page book on potential readers I'd be a little worried too. But let's be realistic for a moment: It's a graphic novel! It still a very quick read.
Two minor criticisms: I was fine with the basic illustrations--the graphic part of the book doesn't reach nor attempt to reach the heights of some others in the genre. But I didn't like how Shaw adds words to describe non-dialogue physical features; for example, such as writing for sound effects, "shrug" on a shoulder or "grip" on a hand gripping something or writing "Purples" and "Pinks" so we know what color the sky is. An even more awkward example is when Dennis is cooling down after a hot run, and he places his head in front of a fan. On his forehead it says, "Cool air against the sweat on your forehead." Very clumsy. The other criticism: He names the family the Loonies. Really cute. Mercifully, this is mentioned only two or three times.
Recommended if you like: Adrian Tomine; David B.; Jason; Chris Ware; Charles Burns; Daniel Clowes; Rutu Modan; Allison Bechdel; Craig Thompson; or Yoshihiro Tatsumi.