Landing with Wings
Allen & Unwin, 2020
80pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99
Mira and her mother are moving from their home near the sea to the goldfields of the Bendigo area, somewhere very foreign to Mira and she has no idea what to expect. Her life is being turned upside down and she writes a farewell letter to her favourite tea-tree, beginning her recording of this new adventure which is scary but also a teeeeeny bit exciting. “Just a bit. It’s sort of like not knowing what’s on the next page and wanting to turn it to see what happens.”
Like Miri, Trace Balla loves to observe nature by sketching it and so, inspired by a story she saw about a refugee Syrian girl in an Australian detention centre whose future was equally uncertain, she has taken Miri on this journey of having her life upended and gradually discovering this new place, one that takes her back to her indigenous roots of the Dja Dja Wurrung people until she finally finds her home.
This is another intriguing graphic novel from the creator of Rivertime and Rockhopping that is just as extraordinary as those predecessors because of the levels and layers within the story. While on the surface it seems like a personal recount of moving from one place to another, emphasised by the first-person narrative and hand-written font, there is also a bigger picture journey being told, that of anyone whose life is suddenly and permanently disrupted and having to find their place in a new landscape, whether that is physical, emotional or metaphorical. If they are lucky, they will land with wings and with the insight of someone like Trace Balla to guide them, they will learn to reflect on their experience and understand how it has shaped them just as much as the original catalyst.
A silver lining of this current situation of isolation is that we now have the time to read and appreciate this book in all its nuances, for we have each had our own journeys and this encourages us to revisit, review and reflect on them and their impact. It is just what we need at this time to get our lives back into perspective and see the whole rather than just the daily detail, yet, as Balla illustrates, it is the daily detail that builds up the whole.