Anchor, 2007 (2006)
Reviewed by Hilary Williamson
n her debut novel,
, Sarah Armstrong maintains tension - and reader curiosity - throughout. As the story opens, fourteen-year-old Allie Curran is in denial over the drowning of her free-spirited mother Mae. Allie's aunt Julia comes by train to Sydney and takes her niece back with her to the small farmstead (once a dairy farm) where she and her sister grew up. Now, for reasons that are unclear to everyone around her, Julia is replanting the farmland with trees, intending to return it to forest.
he book is essentially about Allie's coming to terms with her mother's death, and also reconciling her own memories and the myriad of tales that Mae told her, with other people's recollections of Mae's life, and eventually with deeper buried secrets. As the rain falls steadily and she settles into life with Julia and seeks traces of her mother's childhood, Allie becomes more and more obsessed with a neighboring farmer, Saul Philips. He was her mother's
, and Allie believes - at least at first - that he is her father.
, represents both the Australian rainforest setting of the story and the bitter tears shed by many of the characters, including Allie. She walks in her mother's footsteps (a little too far in some of them) and eventually traces her own beginnings and the root cause of Mae's death.
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