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Arlene's Heart by Victoria Frances
Review by Gayle Surrette
NBM Publishing, Inc. Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9781561635528
Date: 01 May 2009 List Price $24.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Wikipedia Entry for Victoria Frances / Show Official Info /

Arlene's Heart by Victoria Frances tells of the isolation, pain, and alienation of illness especially when it's compounded by being homeless. A young homeless girl makes her living on the streets making and selling dolls. She feels that each doll is a piece of herself going to a better home. But after an serious illness where she looses a breast, she finds it difficult to pick up her life and works through some issues in her imagination.

The book is in parts, the Prologue sets us up with the illness and the loss of Arlene's breast, the chemotherapy, her loss of hair, her release and the pain of trying to take back the life she had with less energy and feeling as if she's lost part of herself. From here we slip into fantasy and travel through several areas: 1) A world of Colors, 2) An Angel Went By, 3) The Pain, and 4) Back Home.

The artwork is absolutely gorgeous whether realistic, fanciful, stylized, or abstracted. There are homages of many cultural references: The Little Prince, My Little Pony, and Phantom of the Opera to name a few.

Frances deals with many of the beauties and horrors of this world usually by showing the surface beauty and then stripping away the facade and letting the reader see the mistreated animals, sexual slavery, war, predation of the weak, and more. As beautiful as the art can be there is also the depiction of the horrors that humans have perpetrated on ourselves.

Arlene is lost. She's lost part of herself and is out of control. She is seeking to find her center. And first she must accept herself and humanity. Frances has made a wonderful attempt to portray the loneliness and alienation of those who don't fit in, and those who live outside the accepted boundaries of society whether by choice or circumstance.

Arlene's Heart is not for the faint of heart or those who look but do not see, for Frances doesn't let you look away.

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