Qualification: A Graphic Memoir in Twelve Steps

David Heatley. Pantheon, $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-375-42540-0

Heatley (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down) recounts in squirmy, funny detail a chaotic childhood that leads to an ironic “addiction” to recovery programs in this ultra-candid memoir. His self-absorbed parents love God, Overeaters Anonymous, and AA, leaving little time for their three sons, all of whom stumble into adulthood seeking parental figures in the form of convenient metanarratives. David struggles—with money, porn, and his loyal but frustrated girlfriend-then-wife Rebecca—but it’s not clear he’s an addict to anything in particular. He revels in the “God burst” (drawn as a halo-like bubble around his head) he experiences every time he gets to share at a meeting, especially when chosen for “qualification,” 12-step lingo for a featured confessional moment. He chases inner peace so hard that he nearly ruins his life, an experience to which any searcher with an ego will relate. With scrunchy faces and lumpy bodies, the characters he meets along the way—the Debtors Anonymous treasurer who makes off with the group’s cash, the guy who brings a blow-up doll to a Sex Addicts Anonymous meeting—form a tragicomic backdrop. Eventually, David begins listening to his own doubts about “working the programs,” and starts seeing a Jungian analyst who helps him in a subtler but more profound way. Heatley’s hefty inventory proves both sobering and spirit-lifting. [em](Oct.) [/em]