This graphic memoir follows author and illustrator Erin Williams on her daily commute to and from work, punctuated by recollections of sexual encounters as well as memories of her battle with alcoholism, addiction, and recovery.
Among other things Commute does well, it’s a good education for men about the lived experience of women ... The illustrations can be lively and humorous at one moment and shattering the next. They show, in a way words can’t, how creepy it can feel to be stared at ... Some of the most arresting moments in this memoir concern Williams’ past use of alcohol to pursue bodily disassociation. Her subtle and devastating illustrations reveal the link between sexual assault and alcoholism in visceral detail, and the graphic-memoir format makes these issues accessible to a broad range of readers. Williams asks hard questions about shame, compliance and desire, both in her own life and in the larger culture ... she adds an eloquent voice to the chorus of stories testifying to the daily experiences of women under patriarchy. Commute is a book that really should be read by everyone.
Commute is by no means a narcissistic or self-involved work. Instead, it’s a meditation on Williams’s sense of self as a sober person after a long struggle with alcohol abuse and as a rape survivor. It’s also a very visual memoir, as she renders her discomfort through physical details ... Williams’s Commute [is] more of an elegy to her past self and her addiction, which she acknowledges with neither condemnation nor glorification ... Using a day in her life to frame the story ties it together more neatly than a standard memoir, but it also opens to the possibility that a new day can jumpstart another trip down memory lane.
Some of the alcohol-tinged memories seem a shade too vivid, though by the morning she decides to get sober, her thought bubble’s contents are merely a scribble ... but I would have liked to have seen more of this struggle to remember ... Williams’s visual style is less conventionally feminine: stark, mostly black and white with striking pops of color, and all-caps lettering ... Commute thrums with the tension between desire and wanting to be desired during murky past encounters with men, who, when summoned through memory, transform into archetypes along the spectrum between nostalgia and trauma ... The triumph of Commute lies in Williams’s effort to make the male gaze visible through 300 pages that render a distinctly female one. The whiteness of her gaze, however, remains uninterrogated ... her decision not to mention race limits the potential universality of a story that centers white femininity as the default, rather than acknowledging the narrowness of its specificity. Nonetheless, Commute is a necessary addition to the medium of graphic narrative, long dominated by men. Its publication is timely, part of the massive cultural shift in the wake of #MeToo, as women continue to share stories that, for so long, went unspoken. The gravity of its themes is balanced by its frank humor, which makes for an engaging read, especially while riding a train.