The Desert Knows Her Name

Lia Hills

The Desert Knows Her Name
Affirm Press
28 May 2024

The Desert Knows Her Name

Lia Hills

Listen deeply now, if you remember how and why.

On a hot October afternoon, a girl walks barefoot out of the Wimmera desert, near the small town of Gatyekarr. She finds sanctuary with Beth, a regenerative farmer and collector of seeds, devoted to bringing her family's farm back to life. The arrival of the mysterious 'desert girl' unsettles the community and old tensions erupt. The longer the girl stays silent, the more volatile the town becomes. Who is she and what does her presence mean?

The Desert Knows Her Name is an exquisite novel that speaks to a deep longing for connection with the land, and the silences that persist in contemporary Australia.


Towards the end of The Desert Knows Her Name, one of the main characters muses on how people can love and destroy the same thing; over and over, apparently.

In this unusual novel set in the Wimmera desert, the notion of pain and loss is apparent on every page. This story centres on a young girl who wanders barefoot into Beth’s life. Beth, a regenerative farmer and collector of seeds is trying to bring her family’s dried-out farm back to life. Her parents have died tragically, and she is trying to believe that there is good in the world. Her friend Nate, the local pub owner, carries more than his fair share of grief, and together they form an alliance to protect the young Indigenous girl, who is injured in all the ways possible and chooses not to speak.

Alongside the heartfelt descriptions of loss, there is a crime and a love story of sorts that moves the narratives through the wildlife and town gossip to issues that we all know are apparent on this unceded land. The past must be reconciled before the present day can be honoured. Lia Hills has researched this ode to our wilderness and history to ensure that this story of kinship can be part of the search for a way forward. It is a fable about coming home and remaining resilient. Readers of Alexis Wright will rejoice in this poetically told tale of land and history. By reading these women, we understand that we cannot talk about this land without also talking about its history. We are all part of the story and to remain so, we must acknowledge the pain of the past and present, and be optimistic about what lies ahead. This novel helps shine a light on the past and ahead into the future.

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