Shadow Life Review

Written By: Hiromi Goto

Illustrated By: Ann Xu

Format: Hardcover

Page count: 368 pgs

Published By: First Second

Release Date: 30th March 2021


Kumiko never desired to live the rest of her life in an ‘assisted living home’. Constantly surrounded by the same old people, old news and constant badgering from nurses. So one night, she packs up her belongings and leaves the ‘home’ for good – without telling her daughters! Having found a small apartment to call her own, she spends her days exactly how she pleases – by decorating her new home by bringing life into the discarded furniture left on the street and taking her daily swim at a local pool. Free to make her own choices and eat whatever she likes. However there is a dark presence that has been following Kumiko around ever since she left the old folks home. Death’s shadow has come knocking on her door – but how long can Kumiko go without answering it?!

I absolutely adore this book! Kumiko is a sweet, little old lady who also has a devious streak in her. Having found her independence again and is now out from under the thumb of her three ‘darling’ daughters, Kumiko has gotten a second chance of life. Although she has daily reminders of how old she is now, with a failing body and weak pelvic muscles. The littlest laugh can sometimes be disastrous for this old age pensioner. However this lady still has her wits about her and is definitely as sharp as they come. All you have to do is see how she deals with a shop assistant when trying to haggle for a new vacuum. She certainly is a force to be reckoned with, and one I highly admire. It isn’t often we see characters of her age group being represented as lead characters, the only one I seem to be able to recall in recent years that had a huge success, has been the old man Carl in the animated film Up from Pixar.


There is also another twist to this story, as an old flame comes back into Kumiko’s life. What I haven’t mentioned yet, is that Kumiko is 76 year old bi-sexual widow. Much to the surprise of her adult daughters, who believed that their late father was Kumiko’s sole relationship. Now isn’t that a twist! This quick witted old woman has escaped death many times, but he’s back to collect! What appears on the outside to others, is that Kumiko is going senile and can’t be trusted to live on her own any longer. However from Kumiko’s point of view, she has trapped the Grim Reaper in her hoover by securing it with a salt rock lamp.


This book has been full of laughs, down-to-earth lessons about life, enjoying it even though you may be a part of the elderly demographic. It instills a lesson about respect for the older generations that came before us, that perhaps they too still have their witty moments. They have lived so long, that they have certainly picked up a trick or two that will come in handy when it comes to out maneuvering ‘death’ if he comes knocking. It’s stories like these that begin to open your eyes a bit more to those around you, that perhaps you thought were a bit too ‘senile’ to interact with. I would love to see more books like this being released by Hiromi Goto, as they really do leave a memorable impact on the reader.

‘Age is just a number after all.

You can buy the book from the U.S on the 30th March from the link below:

Better yet, pre-order it now from your local bookshop.

Overall: 8/10

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