Book Review by Aarene Storms: The Undertaking of Lily Chen

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff

When Deshi's older brother Wei dies accidentally, his parents send Deshi on a quest to bring back a "corpse bride" so that their eldest son will not be alone in the afterlife.

With cash in hand, Deshi seeks out a grave robber ... but the search is, ultimately, much more complicated than just digging up some bones to be buried along with Wei.

This story of modern China is full of fascinating, flawed characters. Deshi and Wei are hardly ideal, upstanding citizens: Wei is a drunk, a gambler, and a jerk. Deshi is now working as a security guard having messed up as an army pilot. Lily is pretty, but is also pretty annoying at times.

The supporting cast is equally dinged-up, and this makes the story much more interesting, and makes the ending much more satisfying.

Beautiful romantically-washed watercolor landscapes juxtaposed with wobbly line-drawn human figures allow the reader's eyes to travel quickly through the book, and the quickly moving narrative suits the illustrations.   


Recommended for readers ages 14 to adult. The characters are all adults, but the family dysfunction issues will appeal to teens. No cussing, some (cartoon) blood, the on-page sex scene is tactfully masked with blankets and black ink.


The events may not have happened; still, the story is true.  --R. Silvern

Aarene Storms, youth services librarian
Richmond Beach and Lake Forest Park Libraries, KCLS


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