The Rain Heron
"Astonishing...With the intensity of a perfect balance between the mythic and the real, The Rain Heron keeps turning and twisting, taking you to unexpected places. A deeply emotional and satisfying read. Beautifully written." --Jeff VanderMeer, author of Borne. One of LitHub's Most Anticipated Books of 2021.
A gripping novel of myth, environment, adventure, and an unlikely friendship, from an award-winning Australian author
Ren lives alone on the remote frontier of a country devastated by a coup d'état. High on the forested slopes, she survives by hunting, farming, trading, and forgetting the contours of what was once a normal life. But her quiet stability is disrupted when an army unit, led by a young female soldier, comes to the mountains on government orders in search of a legendary creature called the rain heron—a mythical, dangerous, form-shifting bird with the ability to change the weather. Ren insists that the bird is simply a story, yet the soldier will not be deterred, forcing them both into a gruelling quest.
Spellbinding and immersive, Robbie Arnott’s The Rain Heron is an astounding, mythical exploration of human resilience, female friendship, and humankind’s precarious relationship to nature. As Ren and the soldier hunt for the heron, a bond between them forms, and the painful details of Ren’s former life emerge—a life punctuated by loss, trauma, and a second, equally magical and dangerous creature. Slowly, Ren's and the soldier’s lives entwine, unravel, and ultimately erupt in a masterfully crafted ending in which both women are forced to confront their biggest fears—and regrets.
Robbie Arnott, one of Australia’s most acclaimed young novelists, sews magic into reality with a steady, confident hand. Bubbling with rare imagination and ambition, The Rain Heron is an emotionally charged and dazzling novel, one that asks timely yet eternal questions about environment, friendship, nationality, and the myths that bind us.
Arnott's vibrant and violent latest (after Flames) follows two women on their hunt for a mythical creature in the aftermath of a violent military coup. After a folkloric sketch about a legendary rain heron's ability to grant both bounty and destruction, Arnott shifts to Ren, an older woman living on a mountain whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of army lieutenant Zoe Harker, a veteran of the coup. Zoe has been ordered to capture the rain heron, and she tries to force Ren to reveal the bird's location. Ren resists, leading to a fight in which Zoe loses an eye. Flashbacks flesh out Zoe's childhood in a seaside town, where a stranger kills Zoe's aunt for defying him, an episode that leads Zoe to realize, in the present, that she's become the invader. As Zoe continues the search for the rain heron with Ren in tow and her medic, Daniel, tending to both women's wounds, Arnott describes mythic scenery ("Soon after entering these wild fields the road doglegged, and over this bend Daniel saw the river's death"). Though the plot doesn't always hang together, Arnott fascinates with fable-like stories and thoughtful meditations on the consequences of lessons learned too late. The beautiful imagery and magical moments carry the reader through an occasionally bumpy journey.