49 Days

Writer / Artist
49 Days
49 Days graphic novel review
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Levine Querido - 978-1-6461437-5-7
  • Release date: 2024
  • UPC: 9781646143757
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: yes
  • Positive minority portrayal?: no
  • CATEGORIES: Drama, Medical

Buddhist tradition has it that a journey taking 49 days occurs after death, and only after completing it does the person fully pass onwards. Agnes Lee’s 49 Days is the tale of one such journey.

We join Kit on the first day as she awakens on a beach. She has a kit bag, a map, a watch and a constant awareness that she’s somehow late. Each day begins with a trip and ends with disaster, and we see Kit toiling for several days before Lee introduces greater variety by interspersing the journey with memories of life.

Despite the daily frustrations and the difficulty of the terrain, Kit seems content enough on her journey, and reacts accordingly to the memories that spontaneously arise. She’s of Korean heritage yet is raised in another country, eventually revealed as the USA, and among the early recollections are feelings of being an outsider. These are sympathetically treated by Lee, and sit well alongside the grief and loss experienced by family and friends that gradually also becomes part of the narrative.

The magnificence of 49 Days is that Lee prompts so much emotion through minimalism. She never moves beyond the absolute basics of what’s necessary, yet within that the actual drawing may be plain, but it’s well crafted, with movement and scenery neatly achieved. A simple colour scheme is used to differentiate Kit’s journey from her memories and from the experiences of the friends and family she’s left behind.

As Kit’s journey continues and the memories percolate 49 Days becomes an immersive experience. Readers will increasingly begin to wonder why Kit’s on the journey now when she’s relatively young, and why it is that her memories are relatively trivial.

The importance of Buddhist tradition supplies a spirituality, yet the constant references to food reaffirm the necessities of life to supply an effective contrast. 49 Days offers a personal interpretation of two journeys of reconciliation, and while both sad and life-affirming, at the end there’s peace. It’s a unique graphic novel.