Salt Rain by Sarah Armstrong

‘Every tree sliding by was a marker of the distance stretching between Allie and her mother, stretching thinner with every moment.’

Fourteen-year-old Allie lives with her mother Mae in Sydney. Allie has the stories Mae has told her about the past and about who Allie’s father is. And if Allie was curious, she was happy with her mother’s stories – until Mae disappeared. Allie’s aunt Julia travelled to Sydney to take Allie back to her home surrounded by rainforest, a lush green space, during the wet season.

Allie, convinced that her mother would not leave her, is waiting for her mother to return and wants to return to Sydney. While she waits, she meets members of her extended family and other people whom her mother knew. She wonders about her father: was it Saul (Mae’s First Love) or the balloon man from the fair as Mae had always claimed? The balloon man is unknown and long gone, whereas Saul still lives close by. Allie wants it to be Saul but trying to find the truth is going to take her into an uncomfortable and confronting past.

In fewer than 220 pages, Ms Armstrong takes us deep into the ancient rainforest, fighting its own battle for survival and into Allie’s complicated family history. Julia has some of the answers, as does Saul but what will Allie make of the truth?

While I did not find this an easy novel to read because of some of the themes, I admired the way in which Ms Armstrong handled several complex and uncomfortable issues. A story which will stay with me.

‘They would float all the way to the sea, to the wide salty sea.’

Jennifer Cameron-Smith