ABBEY'S BOOKSELLER PICK ----- I read this as the coronavirus was just beginning, the news slowly gaining more urgency with each day. Reading at night, outside the bedroom window the garden was alive with the squawks and rasps of flying foxes and possums. All of this only enhanced the dreamlike, dystopian mood that McKay creates here. Her story is of a strange 'zoo flu' that sweeps the globe, the effect of which is that people are suddenly able to understand the creatures - the birds, animals and insects. But this is no Disney or Doolittle moment with loveable and witty repartee with your dog and cat. No, McKay channels unsettling and nightmarish utterances from the animal kingdom as human life disintegrates into madness - people unable to cope with the revelations. Jean, mother and grandmother, is a rough diamond and her fraught relationship with Sue, her dingo companion, is compelling. Craig Kirchner
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.
Out on the road, no one speaks, everything talks.
Hard-drinking, foul-mouthed, and allergic to bullshit, 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.