Milena Cifali – Mallacoota Time – the lost summer of 2020

Echo Books, Australia, 2020
Available in soft and hardback editions
Design by Peter Gamble, Canberra
Cover art by – soft back Milena Cifali; hardback Ishak Masukor

Part memoir, part hymn to Mallacoota, part account of the fires of the Australian summer of 2019-2020 and the devastation and loss that resulted, Mallacoota Time is a beautifully written passage through grief.

The author aims to help others who have suffered loss through the fires, or other grief, to heal. She writes honestly of her own losses, fears and struggles and in this she invites us to feel our own – whatever they may be.

Milena Cifali talks to Barbie about Mallacoota Time

Skilfully crafted, this book, which is Milena’s first long form prose work, dances across aspects of her life, her childhood, her work as a musician and the heartbreak of losing everything in the firestorm. Hearing of the destruction of their home by phone call and then by seeing it depicted on national news, Milena and her partner Jim had to process all this while on a musical tour north and family Christmas trip to Brisbane.

Returning to Canberra, which had once been home, Milena found herself writing – not initially intending to make a book, but discovering that the telling of her story, in all its complexity, was helping in her own healing process. Music was not coming to this singer-songwriter and accomplished guitarist, but written words were. The thought that her expression of gratitude for kindness, and all for that remained, might help others spurred her on to produce a published work.

With delicate touch, Milena gently leads us through her Mallacoota life – the birds and other wildlife that were so dear, the views of the sea, the touch of the sand and the breath of the sea breeze. There is a strong sense of how dear also is and was the community of Mallacoota, now weighed down by multiple griefs. She is a gifted storyteller, her writing always carrying us with her, never setting us apart as voyeurs.

At a time of, it seems, universal grief with COVID-19, we have much need of books like this. I commend it to all. Through it, you will know Milena and her story, but you will also know your own stories and that treasured sense of home and love we all crave.

Thank you to Milena for a review copy.