READ OUR REVIEW
When Elana finally loses her battle with cancer, the Tetley family implodes. She leaves behind a hole in their lives that can never be filled. The father, like an automaton that has lost its power, winds down, unable to function at all just when his children need him the most. The family sheep farm grinds to a halt, and if something is not done then the family will lose everything. All the children are hit hard, but we experience the loss mainly through the eyes of Rose and Frank.
Rose and Frank, teenagers a year apart in age, have always been as close as twins. However, their mother’s death rips them apart, with Frank withdrawing, not only from Rose, but from everybody.
With seemingly nobody to help them the children come under the care of two Noongar Elders who have a mysterious connection to the father. It is obvious he knows them and that they care about the family, yet there is also a divide, a feeling of bad blood between them.
Interspersed between the chapters there are some beautiful passages of poetry that capture the grief and emotions of the children. I read in an interview that Schmidt was going to leave these passages out. I am so glad she didn’t, they are an integral part, and strength of the novel.
Salt River Road is a novel about two young teenagers trying to recover and deal with the grief of losing a mother, but it is also a novel about reconciliation, forgiveness, and healing from previous generations’ wounds.
Schmidt must be commended for writing a story that honours and includes the culture of the Noongar people.
A wonderful debut that thoroughly deserved the Hungerford Award.
Reviewed by Neale Lucas
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Molly Schmidt is a writer and journalist from the coastal town of Albany, Western Australia. An only child, she grew up roaming paddocks and climbing paperbark trees on Menang Noongar country. Storytelling has been part of Molly’s world since she could speak.
When she was 10 years old, her father lost his battle with terminal cancer. Molly began writing to process this loss, and through written word has found healing, growth and her life path. Throughout both her journalism career and novel writing practice, Molly is passionate about producing stories that are inclusive of all members of her community.
While writing Salt River Road, she collaborated with Noongar Elders from Albany, with the goal of producing a novel that actively pursues reconciliation between non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal peoples. Molly completed a thesis on the topic at Curtin University in 2021, supervised by Professor Kim Scott and Dr Brett D’Arcy, for which she received First Class Honours. This novel, Salt River Road, is the recipient of the 2022 City of Fremantle Hungerford Award. By day,
Molly works as a radio producer and journalist for the ABC, where her passion for storytelling is put to good use. Drawn to the coast, Molly now lives in Fremantle where she enjoys free time wandering the beach and local coffee shops with her dog, Rupi.