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The Undertaking of Lily Chen Paperback – March 25, 2014


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: First Second (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596435860
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596435865
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* In contemporary China, Deshi accidentally kills his older brother, Wei, by shoving him in front of a moving jeep, and his furious mother, calling on the ancient tradition of ghost marriage, demands that he find the unmarried Wei a corpse bride, a recently deceased single woman who will accompany him in the afterlife. Guilt-ridden Deshi seeks the help of a matchmaker, a grave robber, and a hospital attendant before he runs into stubborn, spirited Lily, who would make a perfect bride if she weren’t so alive. Is Deshi prepared to commit murder to fulfill his mother’s request? Or will he find a way to give his parents some peace while preserving his own happiness? Novgorodoff’s exaggerated, cartoonish figures appear against spare, inky backgrounds resembling traditional Chinese landscape paintings, as if history and heritage loom over Deshi and Lily as they make their way forward to their futures. Deshi’s grief and guilt, meanwhile, are hauntingly, gorgeously rendered in smoky, aqueous watercolor washes, which subtly suggest a gaping mouth and face hovering over Lily and spilling between panels. It’s a simple, darkly comic story, but Novgorodoff’s artful juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary imagery elevates it to eloquently echo a deeper, all-encompassing tension between past and progress. --Sarah Hunter

Review

"This stunning and intriguing graphic novel takes the reader on a brother's journey to find a bride for his deceased sibling . . . Everything about this graphic novel is striking. It is not easily forgotten." - VOYA
 
Praise for The Undertaking of Lily Chen:
 
"If you haven't read any of Danica Novgorodoff's books, you're missing out." —USA Today
 
"Beautiful, haunting, and utterly human." —Gene Luen Yang, author of American Born Chinese
 
"A vast, dangerous tale… Novgorodoff has created a world filled with ghosts, regrets, dreams, and love." —Brian Selznick, author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Customer Reviews

Great story told with both beautiful and clever art work!
Marabeth
This book is also Lord of the Rings-esque, and not in a good way; there is a lot of walking, without anything else much happening for much of the book.
Chelsea Heidt
For me, it makes the characters seem like they aren’t really a part of the story.
Andy Shuping

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Tim Lasiuta on April 11, 2014
Format: Paperback
Books can be like ghosts, after reading them, they haunt your dreams and lives.

The Undertaking of Lily Chen is like that with its' themes of honoring tradition while embracing freedom and running with it no matter where it takes you. Danica Novgorodoff's book, while unconventional initially, takes readers through disturbing concepts of grave robbery for ghost brides, runaway daughters, and what is likely a mortal sin in China, death deception.

However, in a twisted way, it is also a love story born out of a desire to satisfy his parent's wishes. Deshi Li on his search for a suitable death bride, rejects 'ugly' ones and finds Lily Chen alive and unwell with her oppressive father. He choses her for his brother and tries to kill her a couple of times, yet ends up saving her life and she his. In his quest for her death, she helps him find his life.

The art is brilliant, and every chapter is interconnected with the deading dress being sewn step by step. Watercolour artwork suits this book and meandering journey beautifully.

Novgorodoff has created another visually enticing, thematically titilating masterpiece.

Bravo.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Talvi TOP 100 REVIEWER on March 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
Some graphic novels are just perfect in every way - you can tell that they were done by a true artist (but illustrative and storytelling) and will follow you for a long time as you ponder what you've just read.

The Undertaking of Lily Chen is one of those books. American artist Danic Novgorodoff has creating a surreal yet thoroughly grounded story based in modern day China. The protagonist of the novel, Deshi, works at an airbase in security after failing to become a pilot. When his drunk wastrel brother shows up looking for money to pay off gambling debts, a scuffle ensues and the older brother is hit by a jeep. Deshi's family, despondant, demand that Deshi find a corpse to bury with his unwed brother so his brother doesn't spend eternity alone. Deshi begins a journey that will take him to far places as he seeks to find a rare corpse bride for his brother.

Author/illustrator Novgorodoff based the story upon an article from the Economist that noted a "burgeoning market for female corpses in rural areas of China as a result of the strange custom called 'Ghost Marriages'". She took the story and ran with it - creating characters that were heavily flawed, utterly realistic, completely fantastical, and very memorable. The amount of pathos in this large graphic novel is staggering - you don't love the characters but you don't hate them either. They all seem to be reacting according to their own selfish needs and desires - yet none seem to have any control over their destiny at all.

Although this 'road journey' adventure tends to stay fairly serious, it does have its humorous moments. As with the scenes of the father creating a posse out of the village idiots in order to track down his 'kidnapped' daughter - and with each scene, he loses one more of his men.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Bloggers Recommend on March 25, 2014
Format: Paperback
Deshi Li, on a quest to find his late-brother a ghost bride, meets Lily Chen, who is escaping from her upcoming arranged marriage. Novgorodoff's gorgeous graphic novel explores the dark recesses where filial duty confronts the modern world in rural northern China. The soft colors and expressive watercolors create a haunting backdrop to this universal tale of trying to cheat destiny to forge a brighter future. —Candace B. Levy, Bloggers Recommend
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Quinner on April 4, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is stunning, and utterly hilarious, even though the comedy never drowns the story. It's a feat, and I don't know how to describe it because it's probably the best graphic novel I've ever read. I've never seen anything like it.

It begins from an Economist quote and ends, well... there's a mule in the middle, the art is never the same but somehow always connected -- just check it out. This book is sublime.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Abeer Y. Hoque on April 7, 2014
Format: Paperback
Full disclosure: Danica is a friend.

I met Danica Novgorodoff in 2011 at an arts residency in Virginia. She was working on The Undertaking of Lily Chen, a graphic novel that would take her 5 years to complete. I saw some of the pen and ink sketches at the time and I loved them. But how it’s all come together into this sprawling 430 page book is another wonder.

TUoLC is gorgeous gorgeous: pen and ink drawings painted with lush watercolour, haunting, precise, mystical. It’s funny, how despite all that beauty, you have to make yourself stop and look longer, because the story races along so, with a time line that ticks down day by day, abacus bead by abacus bead. This is a problem I often have with graphic novels - as much as I love the art, the words strike me first, fastest, and I’m hard pressed not to keep turning the page as quickly as I can. (I finished TUoLC in hours.)

Each of TUoLC’s 35 chapters has its own icon, a stylised face, reminiscent of a wax seal or royal bust head. They often begin and end with landscapes, sweeping mountain scenes, urban skylines, graveyards, rivers, ghosts. The story is about a young man, Deshi, who has to find a corpse bride for his dead brother, an ancient folk custom that his parents are determined to see through. He finds instead a fire cracker of a village girl, Lily Chen, and their pell mell journey from country to city is the heart of the book.

Despite the setting of rural and urban China, of characters ostensibly Chinese, TUoLC comes off American wild west, not just in its obscene jaunty dialectal English, but the very sensibility of the story. I think that’s ok. It’s another kind of book, perhaps an American story set in China based on Chinese folklore and told with a cowboy voice. Any which way, TUoLC is beautiful and clever and thrilling. I highly recommend it.
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More About the Author

Danica Novgorodoff is an artist, writer, graphic novelist, graphic designer and horse wrangler from Kentucky who currently lives in Brooklyn, NY. She has published four graphic novels: A LATE FREEZE (2006), SLOW STORM (2008), REFRESH, REFRESH (included in Best American Comics 2011), and THE UNDERTAKING OF LILY CHEN (2014).

www.danicanovgorodoff.com

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