The set-up of Simone Lia’s Please God, Find Me a Husband! sounds like the most generic of rom-coms: After another relationship ends disastrously, a single thirtysomething woman decides to go on an adventure to find her true love. Yet Lia’s book takes that setup and twists it in an unexpected and wonderfully joyous way.
Lia’s book is not a recent release. It was published in 2012, and I didn’t read it until the next year. But it has stuck with me because it is one of the best autobio comics I have ever read, with a perspective not often represented in comics, let alone in such a charming way.
The God in the title is a fully-formed character in his own right. He first appears following Lia’s breakup, when she has a momentary crisis in the middle of London’s Leicester Square, and asks God if he wants her to be unhappy and single forever. Although she doesn’t expect a response, she does get one – in the form of an INXS song:
And that scene sets the tone for the rest of the book. Lia is a devout Catholic who experiences God as a presence even in the everyday moments of her life. Because she’s a comic artist, she’s able to translate the interior conversation she has with God into images that demonstrate their interactions. Yet the book is never preachy or pious. God, as Simone Lia experiences him, is someone who is willing to dance to INXS, or ride bicycles, or play board games, or draw comics. It’s not magical realism, but just realism – if these are the things that Lia enjoys, and God is present in all aspects of her life, why wouldn’t he enjoy them as well?
The religious focus of the book resonates so strongly because Lia does not shy away from depicting the challenges she has with her faith. She’s bad at meditating and gets distracted during prayer. Her attempts to visualize herself in a Bible story end up with her accidentally stealing chickpeas and getting into a fistfight with Jesus’s followers. The seriousness of the subject matter is also offset by Lia’s comic style, which plays up the humor in her quest for happiness.
Lia’s experience in Leicester Square leads her to decide to “go on an adventure with God” in the hopes of ending her loneliness and finding a match in another part of the world. But her attempt at fulfilling her plans takes her on a circuitous route through another series of adventures, including serving as a sidekick to a death-defying nun who now leads a quieter life of ministry in Wales. It’s not until we are nearly halfway through the book that Lia leaves the country for a grand adventure with her flatmate in Australia, and romance appears.
While horseback riding in the rain forest, Lia meets a character straight out of Outback central casting – a rugged outdoorsman named Brett. He knows how to drive a motorbike, he’s survived being gored by a bull, and he thinks Lia looks just like Penelope Cruz. While he’s slightly surprised to find out about her Catholicism, the two end up sharing a connection. To say more would risk giving away a wonderful ending that plays with readers’ expectations for a happily ever after.
Near the end of the book, Lia attends confession, and the priest shares a message from God:
Well, God is right. Lia took a real chance in writing this graphic novel, especially with a title that makes her sound like a desperate spinster hungry for a man. What resulted was a book that left me with a feeling of joy and peace, realising that I too should stop trying to plan and control every aspect of my life. Simone Lia, I delight in you!