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. 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.
‘Funny, original, and heartbreakingly timely. A love letter to family, communication, and “battlers” everywhere — both human and non-human.’
R.W.R. McDonald, author of The Nancys
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‘In this warm, wild, and irreverent debut, Laura Jean McKay takes us into the minds of animals to reveal the complexity of their lives. The Animals in That Country avoids the trap of anthropomorphism, showing instead the absurd, intense, and shifting bonds between humans and animals.’
Mireille Juchau, author of The World Without Us
‘Wow! The Animals in That Country is refreshingly original and totally bonkers, and I read it at a furious pace. Jean Bennett is one of the most memorable characters I’ve read in a long time. I loved her brass and her messiness, and when the end of times comes, most of us will be lucky to have half her loyalty and determination. The story is hugely imaginative and fully realised, with McKay in total control of her creative vision. She explores the potential of human/nonhuman communication, and the result is as poetic as it is surprising. A great debut novel.’
Alison Huber, Book Division Manager Readings
‘This novel is one wild ride, from beginning to end. I loved Jean’s character — middle-aged, flawed, and foul-mouthed — desperately trying to keep herself together and to hold on to the family she has left. Sue the dingo is a glorious character, full of wild instinct yet all-knowing about the humans she encounters. This is one of the most unique, quirky stories I’ve read in a long time and a telling insight into how we see and relate to native wildlife. Laura Jean McKay’s is a fresh, innovative voice with a story that grabs you by the muzzle, leading you on an apocalyptic trip that you won’t forget easily.’
Jenny Barry, Booksplus Bathurst
‘This book drips with angst and excitement … a truly original story teeming with intrigue.’
Suzie Bull, Farrells Bookshop
‘Reminiscent of Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals, McKay offers an exciting and necessary new voice in Australian fiction. We’ve all wished we could talk to animals, but McKay teaches us that we really should be careful what we wish for. By turns bizarre and profound, this is a striking debut.’
Jaclyn Crupi, Hill of Content Bookshop
‘Deliriously strange, blackly hilarious, and completely exhilarating, The Animals in That Country is a wonderful debut from a genuinely original and exciting new voice.’
‘Engrossing, subversive, and surprisingly profound, The Animals in That Country does something only the best fiction can do: it has the power to skew the reader’s perspective on the world. This story will stay with me for a long time, and its protagonist, Jean Bennett, will be with me even longer.’
‘McKay is a master at building tension through sparse, abrupt language that mirrors Jean’s decades of alcohol abuse, and the excellent world-building is enhanced by the exquisite chemistry between Jean and her canine companion Sue. Visceral and discombobulating yet tender, The Animals in That Country will appeal to readers who enjoyed the animal-led stories in Ceridwen Dovey’s Only the Animals, and the foreboding road trip in Romy Ash’s Floundering.’
Sonia Nair, Books+Publishing
‘Weird, wonderful and strangely moving. I will be thinking about this strange book, about Jean and Sue, for a long long time.’
Eloise Grills, author of Big Beautiful Female Theory
‘An imaginative tour de force — assured, compelling, and utterly original, this book will change how you see the world. Laura Jean McKay's powers are in full evidence here: her singular gift for empathy, enviable storytelling chops, and deftly elegant language will shift your frame of reference and leave you altered, in the best of ways. A unique and important work that explores the bond between humans and animals — and indeed throws the whole dividing line between us into doubt.’
Meg Mundell, author of The Trespassers