cover image Underwire


Jennifer Hayden. Top Shelf, $9.95 trade paper (80p) ISBN 978-1-60309-076-6

Dysfunction needn’t always be the attendant of memoir, as Hayden shows in this slim collection of vignettes about middle-aged womanhood, some originally published as an ACT-I-VATE web comic. Hayden has two well-adjusted adolescent children and a husband still smitten with her. She dances, shops, and has chummy conversations with her daughter, Charlotte, who surprises her mother with her insight and maturity; her son, Kip, has overcome ADHD and attends a prestigious boarding school (and so plays much less of a role in Hayden’s stories)—the vignette in which Hayden laments the departure of her “little boy” of 14 shows much about the emotions of motherhood. Hayden’s cheerful profanity and scratchy lines give the work a homey, intimate feel. And with Hayden’s references to her “ancient self” and reminiscences about pot-fueled fantasies, there’s more than a dash of hippy sensibility. (“Mom, seriously,” her daughter admonishes her on a shopping trip, “the seventies are OVER.”) Even a story about a recurring dream of having murdered someone and being investigated by her children speaks of their affectionate relationship. Hayden’s stories are like comfortable, lived-in jeans—not the most stylish or flattering, but the ones you want to spend time wearing. (Sept.)