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Good as Lily
by Derek Kirk Kim & Jesse Hamm
On the evening of her eighteenth birthday, Grace Kwon finds a lost child crying on the shore of a lake near her home. As she tries to figure out where the girl came from, she hears the screams of a woman drowning in the lake. As she struggles to save the woman, an elderly lady rushes over to help, handing Grace a tree branch. None of the three strangers can remember how they came to be at the lake. As the four of them walk back toward town, the old woman realizes that the three others are younger incarnations of herself at six, eighteen, and twenty-nine. The twenty-nine year old woman studies the faces of Grace and the child, and agrees. Grace doesn’t understand why her other selves have appeared, but she agrees to smuggle them into her bedroom. Over the next few days, they follow Grace around town, posing as relatives, trying to figure out what has drawn them to this particular moment in time.
A story about growing up and confronting regrets, Good as Lily is a touching coming of age story. The title refers to Lily, Grace’s sister, who died when she was six years old and has remained the perfect daughter to whom Grace always feels inferior. Although never explicitly stated by the story, it’s implied that the unexplained appearance of Grace’s past and future selves is related to this complex she’s developed over being the sister who survived. Certainly, no other explanation for this supernatural time-traveling is ever offered. The other Graces offer wisdom to Grace while sorting through the demons that torment them in their own time. At times, it can get really funny – for example, Grace has had a crush on one of her teachers for years, but of course she can’t do anything about it. Her twenty-nine-year-old “aunt”, however, is free to pursue the teacher she remembers liking in her youth – and happily does, to the consternation of her younger self.
But it’s the bittersweet moments that really make the story memorable. The elderly Grace rarely talks about her life, but it quickly becomes clear that the chain-smoking, television-addicted old woman isn’t happy. She finally admits in a candid conversation with one of Grace’s friends that her life is unhappy and full of regret, and she has nothing to go back to. Even the middle Grace, the one on the cusp of turning thirty, begs her high school self not to turn into her, showing that the seeds of unhappiness were sown only a few years after Grace’s happy high school years.
The art is simple, black and white panels that are clean with expressive characters and excellent pacing. It suits the story very well. It’s not manga-style, as you might expect in a story focused on a Korean family, but closer to American independent comics. It’s one of the best comics I’ve read in a while, and well worth checking out.
5 out of 5 stars
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Peeking into the archives...today in:
2013: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
2012: Out of Oz (Wicked Years #4) by Gregory Maguire
2011: The Healer’s Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson
2010: Photo Journalism: The Book Pirates of Peru
2009: Temporary Hiatus