Shadow Life by Hiromi Goto (illustrated by Ann Xu) is black and white graphic novel that details the later days of Kumiko. Forced to move to an assisted-living facility by her well-intending daughters, Kumiko finds that the new living arrangement is not a good fit for her. She “leaves” the facility without telling her family and finds her own new place to live her remaining years. Finding joy in doing things for herself and by herself, Kumiko is happy living on her own.
But, Kumiko quickly realizes that she has an unintended, and unwelcome newness in her life. The shadow of death has come for her and Kumiko is far from ready to go to the new plane. She fights back with a fierceness and bold strength to try and defy and not just postpone death’s grip. Kumiko’s abilities have changed, but she’s not ready to give in.
Kumiko’s struggle involves new friends, and some secret ones from her earlier years. Her relationship with her daughters is strained by their expectations of their aging mother and the girls come to question their mother’s actions. This is particularly true of the eldest daughter who’s concern seems overbearing and dismissive.
This novel defines Kumiko as a no-nonsense kind of senior who makes her own decisions about her life. It’s a blend of cultural expectations, tradition, and the shifting power dynamics of our relationships with family, friends, and even the future itself.