On November 15th, my cat Bright Eyes passed away. He was 16 years old, and was my first pet. I spent 10 years with him, my wife had him before I met her. He was lovely, charming, grumpy and had a surprisingly deep, raspy voice. That’s the conundrum of loving a pet, our time with them is not as infinite as the love we feel for them. When he passed away, it was another sad event to add to my list of “miserable events of 2018”. That loss hit me hard during a particularly rough year.
Niv Sekar’s Your Mother’s Fox is a comic about loss. It’s about the impact of loss and trying to return to something familiar when you feel lost and confused. It’s also about finding a place to belong in the face of loss. The story resolve around a woman who decides to go on a road trip after multiple things on her life went downhill. She lost her job, her girlfriend broke up with her and her apartment’s rent has increased and can no longer afford to stay in her own home. She’s lost and going away is a means to center herself. Her mother insists on taking her pet fox to travel with. The Fox is massive, talks and she can ride him. He provides guidance and, having done some travel with her mother in the past, is willing to help. What follows is this unlikely pair going across America in search of something, belonging or a reason to go on. A journey is sometimes good for the soul.
The results of this road trip isn’t entirely what she expected, whether for herself or for The Fox. She’s wandering aimlessly, trying to find a destination without quite succeeding. The whole endeavour feels pointless in certain moments. The Fox is old and eventually dies on the journey, relaying some last bits of wisdom to the girl as she sobs about the loss of her pet, about loss itself. There’s no lessons to be learned from losing a friend, no wisdom to be gained from death. The world is equally cruel as it is beautiful, and sometimes it’s more painful than others.
The relationship between our protagonist and The Fox is a strained, difficult one. Here, The Fox tolerates our protagonist, but there’s no love coming from him. It’s like being forced to spend the day with your best friend’s friend. You don’t have much in common except your attachment to one person. The Fox clearly loved our protagonist mother and is happy to help her, though reluctantly. It’s full of subtle moments about the way people relate to each other, about how people see one another. Particularly as the girl relies on The Fox for his experience, but wishes to maintain her autonomy and ideas about the journey. Their interactions is lively and tense throughout the comic.
Belonging returns often throughout Your Mother’s Fox. Our protagonist is no longer welcome in her old life, but isn’t quite sure where she should be. There’s no true elements anchoring her life anymore and it’s hard to see a clear path for herself. She’s lost in a sea of options, yet none seems attainable. There’s also suggestions that she questions her place in America, particularly as she travels and stop in small towns where she’s met with disapproving stares and mean looks. Those come because she’s travelling with a giant fox, but also because she’s a woman of colour. This idea permeates the comic, that perhaps finding a place to belong in America is not as easy as it should be for someone who looks like her.
It’s one of the best comics about loss and belonging I’ve read in the past decades. Cherish the ones you love. No one is forever.
If you’re interested in this comic, you should read Nivedita Sekar’s interview that Sloane Leong conducted for The Comics Journal. Sekar is a very interesting cartoonist.