From once-green leaves turning brilliant hues each autumn to our own eventually graying hair, our brief time together is marked by constant change. Pausing to reflect on life’s transience may inspire sadness, but in Things That Go Away, author-illustrator Beatrice Alemagna reminds us that change isn’t always an occasion for sorrow.
Things That Go Away uses simple, image-driven language and engaging artwork to explore its titular concept. Between each spread of Alemagna’s signature oil paintings is a sheet of sparsely illustrated onion paper. With each turn of this translucent paper, Alemagna reveals things that vanish or are transformed, from the relenting pounding of rain that gives way to sunshine to music that fills a room only to dissolve into silence.
While the loss of a friend may cut us to the quick, other changes in our lives can be welcome, even joyful. Among the many transitions Alemagna includes are acknowledgements of the sweet solace that comes at the end of a fear-filled night and the relief we experience when the dense fog of dark thoughts finally clears. Through illustrations of steam unfurling from a morning cup of coffee and soap bubbles blown into the wind that drift upwards beyond the reach of giggling children’s fingertips, Alemagna suggests that we might find everyday transformations wondrous, rather than mundane, if we would only take the time to stop and consider them.
In spread after spread, Alemagna meditates on the wide range of changes we face as we live our lives. If this were all Things That Go Away accomplished, it would be enough. But in its ending, the book achieves much, much more. In her book’s final moments, Alemagna pivots from reflecting on things that change to show us, instead, something that endures. In a world adrift in change, Alemagna seems to say, something must anchor us, and for her, that something is love.