Out on the road, no one speaks, everything talks.
Hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, and allergic to b******t, Jean is not your usual grandma. She’s never been good at getting on with other humans, apart from her beloved granddaughter, Kimberly. Instead, she surrounds herself with animals, working as a guide in an outback wildlife park. And although Jean talks to all her charges, she has a particular soft spot for a young dingo called Sue.
As disturbing news arrives of a pandemic sweeping the country, Jean realises this is no ordinary flu: its chief symptom is that its victims begin to understand the language of animals — first mammals, then birds and insects, too. As the flu progresses, the unstoppable voices become overwhelming, and many people begin to lose their minds, including Jean’s infected son, Lee. When he takes off with Kimberly, heading south, Jean feels the pull to follow her kin.
Setting off on their trail, with Sue the dingo riding shotgun, they find themselves in a stark, strange world in which the animal apocalypse has only further isolated people from other species. Bold, exhilarating, and wholly original, The Animals in That Country asks what would happen, for better or worse, if we finally understood what animals were saying.
My family and other animals
Australian. PhD in Creative Writing with a focus on Literary Animal Studies (!) from The University of Melbourne. Her short story collection Holidays in Cambodia (2013) was shortlisted for several awards. Even better, she revealed in an interview that Jello Biafra's manager had contacted her seeking copies. Note to millennials: Jello Biafra (born Eric Reed Boucher) was the lead singer and creative force (sic) behind the band The Dead Kennedys and the 1980 punk anthem 'Holidays in Cambodia'.
Bad grand-mom Jean works as a tour guide at a zoo/refuge for native fauna somewhere in Northern Australia and sobers up enough to look after her granddaughter Kimberly once a week while the kid's mother Angie, who is boss of the animal park as well as the estranged ex of Jean's son Lee, takes a little R&R. Meanwhile, the southern states of the country are being ravaged by a strange flu pandemic that causes peeps to go all Dr Doolittle, and, more important, they understand the stuff animals say about them, which isn't pretty. The virus spreads north and the zoo/refuge goes into lockdown because so everyone wants to get in for a chat, and because the staff are dropping like flies. Jean heads south in search of her son, among other things. She's accompanied by Kimberly and a dingo cross named Sue that bit her at the start of the story. They end up in Mad Max territory.
Jean is what my grandfather would have called "a character," even before delirium set in. Sue was kind of cool.
Third person. Starts out with earthy realism, then gets increasingly weird.
Ms McKay knows how to string words and sentences together, even if I wasn't always completely sure what she was getting at.
Clever but odd. Made me reconsider downloading the Covidsafe app.
Loved it and hated it but I do recommend it for the educated reader
The story arc is clever and heartbreaking. The writing style and characterisation is unique but irritating.
I loved the story but it’s not one you would read again because it’s a little drawn out and some parts are very hard to read.
You can’t stop reading because it’s so compelling, yet simultaneously it’s not enjoyable. It’s hard to like the characters, especially the main, but you do sympathize with her. It’s pretty brutal in description of their flaws. The events of the socio-cultural insanity are not unfamiliar to the genre.
Sue was something of an enigma until the end, and felt a little underdeveloped, and the lack of regard for her by the main character felt unwarranted and foolish, then for the finale the main character seemed to make out- of-character choice, simply for the writer to leave the ending of the story with pathos.
The ending was pretty tragic and unsatisfying, not because of its style, as pathos is often an effective tool, but due to its incongruity with the character; to me, it just didn’t fit.