Monday, May 1, 2017

Book Review: Before This is Over

By Jami Deise

Thanks to Liane Moriarty, the definition of women’s fiction has stretched beyond its previously known boundaries of romance and relationships. Now women’s fiction fans are geared to expect mystery, mayhem, murder, and other “m”s. Mothers, definitely. Men, absolutely. Maybe even monsters.

Moriarty has also established Australia as a go-to continent for women’s fiction, although the recent HBO adaptation of her bestseller Big Little Lies was moved to Monterey, California, even though presumably star Nicole Kidman can do a fair Australian accent.

Moriarty might have a run for her money with debut novelist and fellow Australian Amanda Hickie, who has stretched the boundary for women’s fiction even further. Centered in the home and firmly grounded in relationships, Before This is Over is definitely women’s fiction. But even Moriarty has yet to put the fate of the entire planet at stake.

Protagonist Hannah is an eight-year survivor of breast cancer, which is why it’s so easy for her husband Sean to assume she’s overreacting about a recent virus outbreak. A few folks have died around the globe; a couple in Australia, but the new bat flu isn’t anywhere close to their home in Sydney, and Sean thinks Hannah is being ridiculous when she wants to keep their teenage son Zac from attending a week-long school trip out to Canberra, hours away. She’s afraid Zac will get sick, or that everyone will get sick and he won’t be able to get home. Sean makes light of her fears and Zac gets to go on his trip, but Hannah insists on keeping their younger son Oscar home and stocking up the house in case they need to be there for weeks. She carefully calculates food for the four of them.

Hickie gives the reader a silver of doubt over Hannah – is she paranoid or prescient? – but it would be a rather short book (and marketed quite differently) if Hannah had been wrong. So it’s not a spoiler to say that she’s not wrong.

Before This is Over is a gripping book that feels a hundred percent real. Hannah cares about one thing and one thing only, and that’s the safety of her family. And if that means the elderly lady next door might starve to death, so be it. Even though the book is written in close third person, Hannah’s point of view is so encompassing, I found myself worrying that I hadn’t sanitized the hand rail of the treadmill I was reading on, and I didn’t have enough food at home if we got trapped there.

We also don’t have a generator.

On a lighter note, I was impressed with Hannah’s restraint toward Sean as the stakes got higher and higher and thousands of people died a day. I would be screaming “I told you so!” But Hannah keeps her mouth shut, even as they’re forced to take drastic measures to retrieve Zac.

On a heavier note, with recent news about the Senate meeting to be briefed on North Korea, perhaps the planet doesn’t have enough time left to be depopulated by a global epidemic.

Although author Amanda Hickie grew up in Sydney, Australia and lives there now with her family, she was living in Canada in 2003 when Toronto became an epicentre of the SARS outbreak. That experience sowed the seed for Before This is Over, which was published in Australia as An Ordinary Epidemic.

If you spent the last few Sunday nights flipping between The Walking Dead and Big Little Lies, this book is for you.

Thanks to Little, Brown for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Amanda Hickie:


Kristi said...

Great review! I am definitely in the camp of yelling "I told you so!". :) Thanks for another book on my TBR list!

Janine said...

Sounds very interesting

Jencey Gortney said...

Great review Jami! Yes, she does sound like an author worth checking out. :)