In her first contribution to the growing genre of graphic memoir, syndicated cartoonist Henley (Laughing Gas, 2002, etc.) recounts the life-altering events following her decision to adopt a child in her late 40s.
The narrative begins with the author informing her family in Texas that a six-month-old Russian boy named Sergey was waiting for her to claim him from an orphanage in St. Petersburg. Henley’s simple pen-and-ink drawings humorously illustrate her trepidation in telling loved ones of her plans to adopt and effectively convey the many trying moments resulting from her decision. It precipitated a reevaluation of what had become a long-distance relationship with longtime boyfriend Rick, and also coincided with a rapid decline in her father’s health. Henley excels in illustrating the intangibles of experience. One of the most frequent states in which she found herself was that of waiting. “I waited…and waited…and waited” for the adoption agency to update her on Sergey’s status, Henley writes; the words appear in frames showing her brushing up on Russian grammar, listlessly washing dishes and doing a headstand in yoga class. Similarly, after Sergey’s adoption fell through and her father continued to linger in the hospital, the author indicates the passage of time with a single picture depicting the phases of the moon, captioned, “There was nothing to say anyway.” Henley’s illustrations richly detail her inaction, and her dynamic narrative flows seamlessly and can easily be devoured in one sitting.
Spare, poetic storytelling conveys a tender, bare-bones depiction of personal growth, told simply enough to engage young and old alike.