Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Shiniest Jewel--Marian Henley

At age 49, comic strip artist Marian Henley wasn't inclined to marry her longtime boyfriend or buy her own home, but she felt driven to adopt a child from Russia. To tell the story of her journey to adoption and its impact on the rest of her life, Henley turned to her medium of choice, and The Shiniest Jewel, a graphic memoir which will be released by Springboard Press on September 15, 2008, is the result.

Readers who have been through international adoption will likely enjoy Henley's take on it, though the details of her experience are hardly unique. But it's on a deeper level that this book shines: reconciling society's views of what makes a fit parent with Henley's image of herself as a person; grappling with her fear of marital commitment to her partner, while watching her parents confront the obstacles of ill health and aging together; struggling to connect with her ailing and distant father.
He had complications after surgery. Nothing serious, but enough to keep him lingering. I felt helpless to help. All I could to was sit and be with him. We didn't talk much, but then again ... we never had. It had taken me years to understand that his silence was not condemnation, even though that's exactly how it felt.
As the book nears its conclusion, Henley delves into a sidestory that at first seems tangential: a letter her father wrote to his parents after a terrible battle during World War II. The letter shows her father in a different light than Henley has seen (and portrayed) him, and, by showing his trust in his parents as a young man fresh from trauma, brings the story full circle. As Henley's relationship with her aging father nears its end, her relationship with her young son is newly forming. It's the highlight of the book; an ending that sticks.


  1. Hmm Yet again, you have nudged me closer to taking graphic novels more seriously with one of your reviews.


  2. I loved this book, too!