It’s about the immigrant experience, as a man leaves his wife and daughter to try and get work in a foreign city. The city is populated by strange creatures, unusual contraptions and a language of symbols that he doesn’t understand. He meets other immigrants, who welcome and help him. And we learn their stories about why they left their homes to make new ones in this city.
The artwork is absolutely beautiful. It’s mostly in sepia tones, with a slightly different palette when he’s showing other immigrants’ back stories.
I love that it’s wordless. The man can’t communicate with words so we experience the world as he does. It would be very easy to forgo subtlety when working in this way, but Tan’s skill as an artist means this isn’t the case. We can see the man’s confusion through our own confusion of the strange objects in this new world. The section about his original home is short, but Tan conveys that the man is leaving due to some horrible force with shadowy, spiked tendrils weaving their way through the streets.
Definitely check this one out, even if you’re not a fan of graphic novels / picture books. Gah, so beautiful.