The graphic-novel memoir from First Second Books follows Lucy Knisley’s own decade-long saga toward the altar, as well as her own keen and amusing observations on the marital industry she curated along the way.
“Marriage is the greatest experiment of your life,” Knisley tells The Post’s Comic Riffs of her insightful personal reportage, “so I try to tell the story of this process.”
Knisley, who wrote the bestselling food memoir “Relish,” hopes to appeal to a wide audience by sharing the deeply human details of how she and husband John marched over many years to this threshold — “the good and the bad and the ugly.”
“I think that’s something people can appreciate at any stage of any life,” says Knisley, whose visual avatar throughout the tale is both internalizing and intellectualizing the experiences sparked by long-term romantic relationships and socially encouraged institutions. This awareness creates a duality within the memoir, as Lucy is both committed actor and commentating narrator.
Lucy and John meet and fall in love in Chicago, when she is in college. They eventually split and live in separate cities before they reunite and then marry in September 2014.
“It was a 10-year relationship before we got married, and I was having the time and faith to think about these things,” Knisley says. “This wasn’t this sudden decision that we rushed. … That would be a very different book.”
Time and personal growth and new experiences allow her and John to more fully consider the implications of marriage, says Knisley, from their careers to their family of origin templates (his parents are married; hers are divorced).
And to capture this maze of emotions, Knisley did not want to allow the passage of time to fuzz her feelings. Instead, she wrote the memoir as the nuptials neared, in real time.
“It’s a very immediate book,” Knisley says. “In some ways, it’s more honest when you’re telling a story as you’re experiencing it.” And a memoir like this, she notes, relies “definitely in the emotion that you’re trying to convey rather than the faded wisdom of age.”
From cake frostings to seating charts to The Dress, Knisley has a winningly wry eye when sizing up the decisions great and small that can weigh on brides and their attentive circles of support. And when studying “the craziness” of such cottage industries fueled by big life changes, she says, “I am amazed by the pressure that they can exert. You have to do this and have to get this and have to spend on this.”
Lucy wrote most of the book prior to her wedding, but her chapter introductions were created later, so she could frame each chapter’s “broader themes.” She also used her husband as a sounding board, and even asked him to write the book’s afterword.
“That’s one of the benefits of this process — John put it in a different light,” says Knisley, who is Eisner-nominated this year for “Displacement: A Travelogue.” “And I wanted some kind of voice at the end, and I [had been asked]: ‘What does think John think about all this?’ So it was good to get his side of the story.”
So after artistically documenting her long and studied route to the altar, does Knisley have any advice for people currently considering marriage?
“Yes,” she says of the process. “Give yourself a break.”