Allie Brosh’s 2020 Solutions and Other Problems marked the end of a seven-year drought (no books, no web posts). The latest volume is a loosely structured collection of illustrated autobiographical anecdotes. Illustrated as only Brosh can illustrate.
The collection includes twenty-five essays relating various events from the artist’s life. I won’t (as I often do) tackle them essay by essay. Topics range from peculiar choices made as a child, to encounters with the kid next door, to extremely bold strategies to manage anxiety. While at first it might all seem a bit random, it seems to me that there’s a structure underneath.
Brosh was, as anyone who follows her Hyperbole and a Half website would know, a child with a unique worldview and hilariously unconventional problem-solving skills, skills little inhibited by common sense or even self-preservation. No doubt this was alarming for her parents — or so the cartoons depicting them indicate — but the tale of e.g., the small child who resolutely crammed herself into a bucket, over and over, is universal. Who among us has not pursued goals long past the point when it was clear they were not worth pursuing?
One might therefore expect a cavalcade of hilarious, wryly observant tales about Brosh’s life, past and present. Except this is a much darker book than her first collection. There are, after all, reasons why she was silent for so long.Some of her setbacks are alluded to only in passing — she was married and now, somehow she is single — but others, like the death of her sister, take centre stage.
It’s very Brosh that while she is careful to provide a clear warning sign for when the weird kid next door will enter the narrative, her sister’s death is just dropped on the reader out of the blue. The central focus of the work turns out to be loss, which Brosh approaches with the same brutal clarity she applies to her zany childhood hijinks. Somehow, Brosh manages to add humour to the mix: the result is often very, very bleak, heartbreaking, but also extremely funny.
Solutions and Other Problems is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Barnes & Noble), here (Book Depository), and here (Chapters-Indigo). At the time of writing, the price at all outlets save Book Depository has been reduced.