A flu of pandemic proportions is sweeping the country, and there seems to be little humanity can do to quell it, try as we might. That’s the somewhat familiar premise of The Animals in That Country (published by Scribe Publications, March 2020), the debut novel of New Zealand based Australian writer Laura Jean McKay.
But this disease had an odd symptom: those who become infected are possessed of the ability to understand the languages of animals. While having a conversation with their pets is probably something many people would cherish, that’s not quite the way this flu works. The infected become privy to the thoughts of every last creature. And for some people the result is an unbearable form of information overload. They die a slow death by madness, from an avalanche of once mute voices.
For straight-talking grandmother Jean, who works in a remote Australian wildlife park, the illness is a blessing in disguise. With the exception of Kimberly, her granddaughter, she much prefers the company of animals anyway. But when Lee, her son, leaves with Kimberly, in a bid to escape the outbreak, Jean, accompanied by a dingo named Sue, sees little choice but to go in search of them.