When her partner left her with a newborn one dark Finnish winter, Anna Härmälä didn’t crumble. Inspired by Fleabag, she turned her pain into raw, funny cartoons

“It’s Finnish winter in complete darkness, and it’s raining ice. And then you can’t sleep, and the baby is screaming, and you’re too tired to get up, but if you don’t get up, there is no one else there.” Anna Härmälä is describing February 2015, when her partner walked out on her and their five-week-old baby. In order to remember, she has to inhabit the “brutal darkness” of that time. “There was extreme tiredness, a deep sadness, moments of despair – but also moments of great love and purpose. That first year was a crazy rollercoaster. It was absolutely… ” She pauses, and breathes in, searching for the right word. What is the word for how it feels when your partner has an affair and abandons you with a newborn? How do you explain it? Härmälä, a Finnish art teacher and children’s book author, started drawing comics.

The comics are raw and funny and painful, thrusting the reader straight into the moment of crisis: Härmälä, ravaged with tiredness, contemplating the droopiness of her breasts and eyebags; intimate conversations with friends; snapshots of the messy loneliness of life stranded with a newborn. The drawings feel so immediate that it’s easy to believe you are reading the story in real time – yeah right, as if a newly single mother, desperately trying to survive, would be likely to sit down each day and create beautiful narrative art about it.

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