Graphic Novel Review: The Undertaking of Lily Chen

Graphic Novel Review: The Undertaking of Lily ChenThe Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff
Published by Macmillan on March 25th 2014
Genres: Graphic Novel
Pages: 432
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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 is the story of Deshi, a man who accidentally killed his drunken brother in a fight at his job at the airbase. His parents send him on a journey to find his brother a corpse bride, an old tradition for men who die without being married. Deshi goes in search of this corpse bride to marry so he is not alone in the afterlife. Unfortunately, complications lead to a corpse that is not suitable and he finds his life even more complicated when he meets Lily Chen.

Lily is unhappy at home, where she may be forced to marry a man who disgusts her, so she takes a chance and convinces Deshi to take her away from her life. Deshi starts to think that his problems have been solved, unfortunately this woman is very much alive. Not only that, as they travel, he starts to find himself attracted to her. On the hunt for a fresh corpse, he must come up with a plan to get everything he wants.

The illustrations in this graphic novel are breathtaking. I love the watercolors and the design of the characters. It’s interesting to set the world more modern while dealing with such an old tradition. I loved seeing Deshi struggle internally with what his family has asked of him and his own conscience. Lily is a stubborn and beautiful woman who is not afraid to speak her mind. She doesn’t know what she has gotten herself into by begging Deshi to take her along. Her family is on the hunt for her as well, giving the graphic novel a bit of a desperate edge to it.

Probably one of the more adult graphic novels I’ve read, The Undertaking of Lily Chen blew me away in every aspect. Beautiful graphics with an intriguing and dark plot make it one of the best graphic novels I have read this year.

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4 responses to “Graphic Novel Review: The Undertaking of Lily Chen

  1. I’ve been looking for more graphic novels to read! So far all I’ve really been getting into are The Walking Dead graphic novels. I’m going to look for this one next time I go to the library! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

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