The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff

Synopsis: In the mountains of Northern China ancient custom demands that every man have a wife to keep him company in the afterlife.

Deshi Li’s brother is dead—and unmarried. Which means that Deshi must find him an eligible body before the week is up.

Lily Chen, sweet as a snakebite, needs money and a fast ride out of town.

Haunted by the gods of their ancestors and the expectations of the new world, Deshi and Lily embark on a journey with two very different destinations in mind.

They travel through a land where the ground is hard and the graves are shallow, where marriage can be murder and where Lily Chen is wanted—dead and alive.

Review: I did not know about this book but I’m really glad I had the opportunity to read it. The story deals with a rather unique custom. Indeed, it seems that in some parts of China, when a man dies unmarried, it is important to find him the body of a woman, herself died unmarried to unite them in death for the man to be accompanied in his afterlife. This is not a simple thing and a big market exists to find enough fresh bodies to use them. People go so far as to steal the bodies in tombs to bring them home. I do not know if this practice does exist and I think I’ll try find out more because I think it’s pretty impressive. In any case, you understand that the basis of the story is really intriguing and I was really curious to get into the comic.

We therefore follow Deshi, who accidentally killed his brother, who died unmarried. His family asks him to make amends and so to find him a wife to unite them. Haunted by his brother, his ancestors and his guilt, Deshi will try to find someone for his brother but will quickly realize that he may have to kill someone for that to happen. Yet this is much easier said than done.

I was very impressed by the mastery of the drawings as well as the representation of the Asian culture. I really did not expect that there, but we finally find that very few dialogues. It’s quite fun to read and fast too but what is the most impressive shot is that the author does not need words to tell her story, no, the explicit illustrations are everything we need. This is really something quite mastered from beginning to end and it’s true that I had a great time with the whole. The end is somewhat open, which I think is a shame but I admit that it was a very nice discovery!



17 thoughts on “The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff

  1. This book sounds fascinating, I’m glad you had the opportunity to read it! Will make a note with this title, I’m really curious and, like Jenny, just the illustrations are worth the try 😉

  2. This sounds so unique and odd – I kinda love it, lol! What a strange custom – please let us know if you find out more. I’m glad your new discovery turned out to be such a fun read, Melliane 🙂

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