'How could Laura Jean McKay know that her novel about a pandemic would be published during an actual pandemic? Unlike Covid, however, the pandemic in her debut novel gives sufferers bright pink eyes and an ability to understand the language of animals.
'Jean Bennett is a guide at an outback wildlife park and devoted grandmother to six-year-old Kimberley. Her ex, Graham, and son, Lee, are long gone, and she gets through each day with nips from a hipflask. She’s an entertaining, if unconventional guide at the park, possibly tolerated because Angela, the park’s manager, is Kimberley’s mum. But Jean genuinely loves the animals, and on Kimberley’s regular sleepovers, the two of them plan their own animal sanctuary: ‘no animal turned away’.
'When the novel opens, the pandemic is just ‘that superflu’ afflicting people down south. There are stories of zoos being broken into and animals being released, but to Jean and the other staff at the park, it all feels a long way away.
'In this extract, anxiety about the virus is increasing and many of the Park’s staff have left. Schools have closed, and Jean and Kimberley have been doing shifts feeding the animals.' (Summary)