The Road from Coorain opens in the early 1940s on the 18,000-acre tract that Bill Ker has named Coorain, after the aboriginal word for "windy place." His two sons are sent to boarding school, leaving wife Eve and daughter Jill as his only partners on a sheep ranch cursed by seemingly endless drought.
Though Jill is just eight years old, she becomes her father's apprentice, learning to endure the back-breaking labor of sheep herding. Bill Ker is charismatic and passionate. A soldier settler, he has secured the sprawling, remote pastoral station. With his wife, he is determined to make a kingdom. Eve is a striking, potent woman, unyielding as the red earth, and woe betide any man who stands in her way.
By age ten Jill is doing the work of grown men. Then one day her father goes to fix a livestock pond and drowns.
Brokenhearted, Eve moves to Sydney with the children and takes two jobs to support the family. She also keeps Coorain and finally makes it profitable when, in a desperate gamble, she buys sheep on borrowed money. The next day the drought providentially breaks.
Despite having spent her early years cut off from other children, Jill flourishes in a metropolitan school and later attends Sydney University, where she graduates first in her class with exhilarating prospects ahead.
But then tragedy strikes again, and her mother, once stoic to a fault, sinks into irredeemable despair and dependency. The woman who had been the mainstay of Jill's life is now the person she must abandon to create her own place in the world.
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