cover image Shadow Life

Shadow Life

Hiromi Goto and Ann Xu. First Second, $24.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-62672-356-6

This wry genre-bending graphic novel from Goto (the Half World series) delves into aging, independence, lost love, and mortality with a whimsy that doesn’t undercut its literary heft. Kumiko Saito, an elderly Japanese Canadian woman, runs away from an assisted living facility to reclaim her autonomy and embrace a solitary—but not lonely—life. Putting off her overbearing daughter and living on the bare essentials, Kumiko relishes swimming, simple cooking, and shopping on her own. Soon, however, Kumiko senses a presence encroaching on her solitude—a shadowy being that wants to take her somewhere she’s not ready to go. With plucky ingenuity, she holds the being off, but the experience opens her eyes to a Miyazaki-esque parallel world of quirky spirits and mystic creatures. The loose black-and-white line art by Xu, including interspersed wordless panels, perfectly captures the progression of Kumiko’s emotions from serenity to revelation to distress to determined defiance, as well as the narrative’s fantastical and surreal turns. Quiet sensitivity and humor shine throughout, lighting the bright triumph in one woman’s twilight. (Mar.)