The Animals in That Country – Book Review
Author: Laura Jean McKay
Genre: Australian, contemporary, literary fiction, speculative fiction
My rating: ★★★★★
Release Date: March 31st 2020 by Scribe Publications
Format: Paperback, 288 pages
What did I think?
I’m not going to lie. McKay’s The Animals in That Country is an odd one. Odd, yet gritty, meaningful, disturbing and oh so Aussie. I had one gripe – that there were parts of this story that I found hard to follow but which, in this case, did not prevent me from giving the novel five stars overall.
Jean is a middle-aged woman who works at a wildlife sanctuary. She’s down-to-earth, like way down, and I feel like I’ve met people similar to her over the years so I think McKay has done really well in capturing that realness. A mix of take no shit, school of hard-knocks, with a kind and sensitive underbelly. She loves animals and she loves her granddaughter, Kimberly, whose mother runs the sanctuary.
A pandemic flu, called zooflu, is spreading rapidly as the story begins. Pretty topical, right? Except that Covid-19 won’t cause any of us to be able to communicate with animals while zooflu will. It seems like the kind of premise that could easily go wrong and turn into a silly book indeed BUT McKay deftly makes it work. No silliness, no cringe.
Where I had trouble is that I found it difficult to understand and follow animal-human communications. For that reason, I got a tad lost for a short period near the middle of the book. Before long the story had me completely on board again as Jean sets off with one of the animals from the sanctuary to find her son, Lee, and grand daughter, Kim, in the midst of the pandemic craziness.
The Animals in That Country gave me hints of Mad Max at times yet it raises important questions – about our relationships with animals – without preachiness.
I may have been lost at times but the style was raw and masterful, and I came out the other end ever so glad that I had the opportunity to read it.
Many thanks to Scribe Publications for my copy of the book, for which I’ve given an honest review. Also, congratulations to the author, Laura Jean McKay.