Salt Rain

Allie's free-spirited mother, Mae, mysteriously disappears on Sydney Harbour one night, her dinghy found drifting in the darkness. Fourteen-year-old Allie is whisked away to the north, to a rainforested valley, by Julia, an aunt she barely knows. On the dilapidated dairy farm where Mae and Julia grew up, Allie waits for her mother to call.

As these anxious days pass, Allie learns about Mae's childhood and about Mae herself through the eyes of others. Allie watches her aunt, who is determined to return the valley to its natural order, replanting the trees of the forest that her grandfather cleared for grazing. And she watches her mother's first love who she discovers still lives in the valley. As the intoxicating heat of the wet season builds, Allie tries to decipher the truth and lies that her mother has told her, and must come to grips with the many secrets held close in the valley.

Salt Rain is an extraordinary evocation of the moods of the inexorable rainforest, of families and of the secrets hidden within them.

Read an extract from Salt Rain.

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Miles Franklin 2005
Queensland Premier’s Literary Prize 2005
Dobbie Award 2005



"… Rain and tears mingle … persistently in the rainforested ancestral valley to which 14-year-old Allie has been taken after the mysterious disappearance of her mother, Mae ... 

Armstrong is adept at projecting double images, at conveying the loneliness and fear that underlie Allie's brave defences of her mother and her Sydney lifestyle, the detachment beneath Mae's "First Love's" affectionate response to her teenage daughter.

Her viscerally realised characters and her enclosed, red-mud, rain-soaked valley landscape lodge in the reader's imagination, and become for a time, as some books do, part of a personal mindscape … "

 Adelaide Advertiser 7 August 2004 

"There is a tradition in Australian writing of stories about children who get lost in the bush. This book turns it around. In Salt Rain, 14-year-old Allie Curran does not exactly get lost. It is her mother, Mae, who has mysteriously disappeared on Sydney Harbour. Allie is sent north to the river valley from which Mae, a teenage mother, had escaped. Here she lives with her Aunt Julia, a woman who has decided to undo the damage inflicted by her forebears by allowing the forest to reclaim her property. Julia's friend, Petal, lives in a caravan at the back of the block.

The caravan was once towed in but the bush now has it surrounded. In a world where it seems never to stop raining, the bush is coming to find Allie. It brings her mother's story with it, full of tangled undergrowth that can rip at the flesh." 

— Sydney Morning Herald 7 - 8 August 2004

"… Armstrong evokes the setting beautifully, giving it an almost bodily presence ..." 

 The Age 

"… [T]his is a well-shaped and well-written book. Armstrong mostly measures the tempo, gradually revealing the truth, depicting her character's development without explicitly discussing it. She has a fine, readable style, one that doesn't clamour for attention." 

— Australian Book Review September 2004

"... Sarah Armstrong's first novel is seamlessly structured and very readable. And awash with liquid - water, blood and milk."

— The Daily Telegraph 4 September 2004

"… Sarah Armstrong's Salt Rain is a beautiful first novel with a triumphant character in 14-year-old Allie ..." 

— The Denver Post 28 May 2006

And from the judges of the Miles Franklin Award 2005 ...

After her mother goes missing from a dinghy found on Sydney Harbour, 14-year-old Allie is left alone in an inner-city terrace. She is returned unwillingly to the property which generations of her family have worked in the rainforest country of northern NSW and where her Aunt Julia is reversing that labour by replanting the paddocks to native vegetation. There are some things, however, that even rainforest can't hide. Allie's return home is as revealing of a dark family past as it is full of incident. 

Sarah Armstrong writes in a distinctively Australian, vigorous vernacular. Her characters ring true as does the way they speak; she balances the flow of action perfectly with a deep love of place in the telling of her tale.