This Place You Know

by Christina Houen. Ginninderra Press

Hay, NSW, 1923 – a young schoolteacher named Martha, falls in love with Henry, a handsome sheep farmer with big dreams. Soon, Martha becomes pregnant but along with the babies, come challenging times as drought, dust storms and the Great Depression erode their dreams.

Henry struggles to be the husband Martha expects him to be. He finds solace in drinking and other women. Martha endures the physical and emotional hardship to save her marriage, but Henry leaves her and their children, the youngest being 7-year-old Anna. While her three older siblings attend boarding school, Anna helps Martha run the farm. Their relationship is fraught with frustration and pain. However, their bond remains strong and in the second half of the memoir, told poignantly through Anna’s eyes, we see her journey to adulthood and the ultimate effect of her father’s abandonment.

As an educated city girl, Martha was ill-equipped to be a sheep farmer’s wife in provincial town of Hay in the 1920’s. Ultimately, she proved to be a stronger person than her husband, keeping the farm going and refusing to give in. Christina Houen shares this intimate journey of her own childhood, her father’s abandonment, and her mother’s sacrifices, in this beautifully written memoir.

This Place You Know   makes compelling reading.

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