Waiting for Elijah
Scribe, $35 pb, 394 pp, 9781925322736
In a 2017 essay for the Guardian, author Charlotte Wood spoke about the shame artists often feel when they discover a distinguishing characteristic in their work, something that separates them from their cohort. ‘In the beginning, and for a long time, an artist can be most embarrassed by the very thing – sometimes the only thing – that gives her work life and verve. You’re ashamed of it because you don’t see it in other people’s work.’ ABC journalist Kate Wild’s début work, an investigation into the police shooting of twenty-four-year-old Elijah Holcombe in 2009, has a touch of the artist’s shame about it. Wild is drawn to the case partly because she has much in common with the Holcombe family. Her parents and the Holcombes both hail from the same patch of country New South Wales; there is a history of mental illness in both families, to varying degrees; and Wild, like Elijah Holcombe, has battled depression. Wild’s writing comes alive when she touches on her struggles with mental illness, but it’s drip-fed to the reader like a shameful secret. ‘We hide what we think is unspeakable in silence, believing if we starve a thing of words it will disappear,’ she writes.