Source: First Second Books/Netgalley – I received this book in exchange for an honest review. I received no compensation
Publisher: First Second Books
Edition: eARC, Pages
Genre: Graphic Novel
Purchase: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / Book Depository*
*I receive a small monetary kickback from Amazon purchases
In The Undertaking of Lily Chen, Deshi, a young man struggling to make a life for himself in rural China, watches his life comes unhinged when he accidentally kills his older brother in a fight. His distraught parents send him on a hopeless journey to acquire a bride for his brother to marry posthumously so he doesn’t enter the next world alone—an ancient Chinese tradition with many modern adherents. Eligible female corpses are in short supply, however. When Deshi falls into company with a beautiful, angry, and single young woman named Lily, he sees a solution to his problems. The only hitch is Lily is still very much alive. Danica Novgorodoff, author of Slow Storm and Refresh, Refresh, brings her distinctive voice and gorgeous, moody watercolors to this wry, beautiful, and surprising literary graphic novel.
The Undertaking of Lily Chen caught my eye with it’s beautiful watercolor cover and the really interesting storyline. It takes us on a journey where Deshi learns what it truly means to love and when it’s time to draw the line on tradition.
I’m not entirely sure if this ancient tradition exists or not, though it certainly seems like something that could have happened in the past, but I loved that Novgorodoff decided to tell a modern story with it. It’s hard to imagine what one would do in a situation like Deshi’s. There is a bit of personal growth for him as he travels with the very much alive Lily Chen, who is full of energy and personality. I would say my one complaint about the story was that at times the language used didn’t really fit.
The artwork is kind of simple and I was kind of disappointed with the way it looked overall, though I did love the watercolor’s used. The scenes where there was very little line work were among my favorites as the watercolors really help set the tone and mood for the scenes.
Overall The Undertaking of Lily Chen is a very unique story with some beautiful watercolors to help prove just how moody this piece is.