Brian Lies visited Hollins University the summer of 2017. I had the great pleasure of meeting him and listening to him give a talk and a workshop about his process. One of the books he used as an example was The Rough Patch. I wasted no time in signing up to get a copy as soon as it was released on Amazon. I waited long months, seeing occasional posts about its early success on Lies’ social media.
He did not disappoint. I knew he wouldn’t. But I also wasn’t expecting the level of impact it would have on me.
This books masterfully goes through the steps of loss. Not only are the illustrations gorgeous, each word is chosen with purposeful precision. The colors echo the mood; sliding from vibrant, to muted, to bright once again. And the third-person perspective was a great choice.
Though the loss Evan experiences is specific to his dog, it is easy to apply the story to any loss, which is part of its mastery. I could not help but feel my own anger surge through me as Evan tears his garden down. I, too, have felt that blinding rage after losses. I know how powerless I feel against fighting the “Weeds” that crawl in to replace the beauty that once was, “Itchy ones. Spiky and prickly ones. Foul-smelling ones.” To look at the shrouded patch that once held light and know why, “These weeds suited Evan just fine.” Because they matched the state of his soul. Those dark days suited me just fine as well.
Lies does not tell us not to feel this way. In a complexity of language and illustration, he simply says this is part of the process. And he does not leave us feeling lost and helpless among the weeds.
A pumpkin begins to grow, and Even takes care of it despite his earlier desire to kill it. A seed of hope. Peace. A symbol to us all that this darkness will not prevail.
Evan takes his prize pumpkin to the Fair, and interacts with others again. The truth of this sentence is powerful, “It felt good to be out again, even if it wasn’t quite the same.” Again, Lies doesn’t go into the detail of the conversations, nor does he need to tell us how it wasn’t the same. We all know what he means. We have all been there.
And oh there is hope! There is a new beginning. On the last page, we know Evan has reached his acceptance.
So sweet, so simple. So profound.
(Illustrations taken from my book and are Copyrighted)