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The Animals In That Country : 2021 Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner | 2021 VPLA Winner | Shortlisted for the 2021 Stella Prize | - Laura Jean McKay

The Animals In That Country

2021 Arthur C. Clarke Award Winner | 2021 VPLA Winner | Shortlisted for the 2021 Stella Prize |

By: Laura Jean McKay

Paperback | 31 March 2020

At a Glance


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Winner of the 2021 Victorian Premier's Literary Award's Prize for Fiction and Victorian Prize for Literature

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.

Staff Review by Ben Hunter

The Animals In That Country is a mind bending novel. It seemed like a harmless bit of weirdness at first, but by the final page it had confirmed itself as the best book I’d read all year. It’s dark, it’s bizarre, and it’s both funny and heartbreaking. It’s a massive achievement in creativity, empathy, language, and wit. Reading it under the shadow of coronavirus panic made it all the more exhilarating. I’m actually gobsmacked. What a book!

About the Author

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.
Industry Reviews
'This is a game-changing, life-changing novel, the kind that comes along right when you need it, and compels you to listen to its terrifying poetry. Compulsively readable and yet also pushing the boundaries of what is possible in terms of language and narrative, this is a brilliant and disturbing book that will make you rethink everything you thought you understood about non-human animal sentience and agency. I don't think any reader can ever forget a voice like Sue the dingo's - wise and obscene in equal measure. A triumph.'
Ceridwen Dovey author of Only The Animals

'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

'Deliriously strange, blackly hilarious, and completely exhilarating, The Animals in That Country is a wonderful debut from a genuinely original and exciting new voice.'
James Bradley author of Clade

Other Editions and Formats


Published: 17th March 2020

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Best of 2020 Australian Fiction

2021 Victorian Premier's Literary Awards Fiction Shortlist