Decodependence: A Romantic Tragicomic

Chronicle PA. Oct. 2023. 160p. ISBN 9781797223322. pap. $24.95. MEMOIR
New Yorker cartoonist and illustrator Ash decodes a behavioral pattern termed “codependence” in this humorous yet raw account of her decades-long struggle. Growing up arty but not popular with boys, and coping with divorced parents, she has sex with casual partners and then clings desperately to the first guy who seems to actually love her. But trying to keep him around by making his life easier ultimately drives him off, since she constantly overdoes it—finding him jobs, handling financial and medical details, attempting to fix everything. Ultimately, she learns her behavior is destructive and unproductive, identifying herself as “codependent”: compulsively sacrificing her own emotions and needs to accommodate or fix her boyfriend’s problems, plus confusing sex for love. Indeed, he rebels by behaving badly and pulling away. Her realistic, subdued color art shows a grimy uncertainty that works well for the story, and a list of resources appears at the end. Readers may feel as unsettled about Ash as she herself feels after gaining more insight into her own self-sabotaging behavior.
VERDICT Those looking to better understand codependent behavior will benefit from Ash’s story and enjoy wry chuckles along the way.
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