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.
Laura Jean McKay is the author of Holiday in Cambodia (Black Inc. 2013), shortlisted for three national book awards in Australia. Her work appears in Meanjin, Overland, Best Australian Stories, The Saturday Paper and The North American Review.
Laura is a lecturer in creative writing at Massey University, with a PhD from the University of Melbourne focusing on literary animal studies. She is the ‘animal expert’ presenter on ABC Listen’s Animal Sound Safari.
Image: The Animals in That Country – courtesy of Scribe Publications