cover image Decodependence


Lila Ash. PA Press, $24.95 trade paper (160p) ISBN 978-1-79722-332-2

New Yorker cartoonist Ash looks back on her relationships with men and the origins and repercussions of her codependency in this candid if at times lackluster graphic memoir debut. The volume is divided into 10 chapters, each prefaced with a well-meaning but clichéd platitude (“Codependents accept sex in place of love,” “Codependents want to fix the people they love”). The 29-year-old Ash lays out a happy middle-class suburban childhood upended by the messy dissolution of her parents’ marriage. What follows is a series of moves, between Georgia, New York, and California, as well as “deep insecurity” and unfulfilled relationships. These early sexual and emotional incursions eventually lead to a long-term relationship with a man who turns abusive, and Ash unpacks the factors that led her to stay with him and overlook warning signs. The drawings are attractive and skillfully employ visual metaphors—red flags demarcate a partner’s violent and controlling behavior; poor boundary setting is literalized by loopy marks on a page—but the script tends toward an overinvestment in therapy speak. The result is a model of one young person’s commitment to understanding her own—as yet unfulfilled—road to satisfying romantic partnership. As a memoir, it’s uneven, but this holds appeal to readers who are going through their own therapeutic journey. Agent: Kathy Schneider, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (Oct.)