Some people are content to follow in the steps of the family business. Others break away from the obligation in favour of pursuing their own dreams. Whether the business dies with your generation or not, there is sure to be some family drama and imposed expectations along the way.
The Undertaking is just such a tale, one of sacrifice and loyalty, all in the name of family. Following the Ward family’s undertaking business as it dips and dives during WWII in Britain, the narrative focuses on Donald, or D, the eldest son who remains devoted to a tradition that his siblings have long since abandoned.
Despite his desire to become an architect, D is tied down to the prescribed business of his family lineage but manages to make peace with living up to his parents’ expectations while coming of age in his own right. D’s hope that the undertaking business will keep the Ward family together during wartime ends up driving many of his relatives away.
With its sombre graphics knit together in shades of gray and black, the visuals help convey the novel’s theme of mortality and family strife. In approaching death and its surrounding mundanity with a single family’s history, Hind exposes current attitudes toward dying by playing with our own lack of power in the face of loss.
Despite the story’s interesting approach to the business of death, the narrative feels jolted as it leaps between both time frames and perspectives. At times the dialogue comes across as stilted, often leaving too much to the imagination, and depriving the readers of the opportunity to truly connect with D and his family’s story of estrangement, misplaced loyalty and long-harboured resentment.
Although Hind is successful in his creation of a landscape where death is inevitable and families are just as war-torn as WWII Europe, the deeper symbolism behind the protagonist and his actions get lost somewhere along the way. (Anna Cipollone)
by Michael J. Hind, $15, 88 pages, Conundrum Press, P.O. Box 55003, CSP Fairmount, Montreal, QC, H2T 3E2, conundrumpress.com