Rumors of a deadly virus have already begun to spread, but Australia has so far remained safe. For Hannah, though, it is a concern. A cancer survivor always anxiously aware of any minute change in her own health, Hannah also has two sons and a husband to care for. And so when talk circulates of the virus’s potential spread, Hannah starts to prepare. Stockpiling food and other necessities is at the forefront of her mind in the beginning and she feels she’s done well enough at that, ensuring the men in her household don’t dip into the emergency stash along the way. But even she realizes that keeping her eldest son from participating in a school trip, when no infection has yet to reach their shores, might be a bit of a stretch.
And yet, her concerns are founded. The virus hits Australia while her oldest son is separated from the rest of the family. She berates her husband for heading into the office and keeps her youngest son home from school while the teachers and principal believe she’s being ridiculously paranoid. And again her concerns turn out to be founded when one of the men in the office and children at the school become infected. And when her son’s school trip is trapped by blockades and quarantine measures, Hannah’s husband finally agrees it’s time to take matters into their own hands.
I loved Amanda Hickie’s debut. In a time of ebola and zika, amongst others, the fear of viral apocalypse definitely seems like a reality we could very well face. Amanda Hickie herself was inspired to write the book based on her own fears after threats of a SARS outbreak.
And those fears ring true in Hannah. The story is tinged by that fear, imbued with a sense of paranoia and dread that infects the reader from the very first page. Which of course makes it a perfectly intense read.
Before This is Over is the kind of book that will appeal to a wide audience. The outbreak aspect makes it dark and satisfying for dystopian and post apocalyptic fans, but there’s a definite literary lean to the novel that will appeal to more than just genre fans. And considering the book raises a lot of questions, most importantly how far would you go to protect the people you love most, I think it would make a great pick for book clubs looking for a very discussion worthy and timely read.
7/17 Becky LeJeune
BEFORE THIS IS OVER by Amanda Hickie. Little, Brown and Company (March 28, 2017). ISBN 978-0316355452. 400p.