Title: Before This Is Over
Author: Amanda Hickie
Meet Hannah Halloran. Wife of Sean, mother of teenage Zac and little Oscar. Their comfortable home is in a suburb of a city unaffected by the deadly flu that’s killed thousands. But Hannah is tense. She’s worried about Zac’s vulnerability miles away at a crowded summer camp. She’s uneasy about Oscar’s boisterous play with the children at his school. Is physical contact wise when an epidemic is coming closer? Hannah fears that their safe little world is about to be blown apart. And she’s right. It’s time to get Zac home – if they can…
As the virus traps Hannah and her family in their neighbourhood and then within their own home, supplies of food, water and electricity dwindle. The battery life on their mobile phones fades, cutting them off from critical news bulletins. Sean’s confidence that the government will keep everyone safe is misplaced. Every day, Hannah has choices to make that will decide whether they live or die. Choices with devastating consequences. Just how far will she go to protect those she loves?
I knew Before This Is Over would be an interesting read due to its subject matter – post-apocalyptic stories, especially where something like a virus or pandemic spreads (because I can more easily imagine that happening than other situations), tend to really pull me in – and this one was no exception. What a brilliant novel!
Firstly, the characters are fantastic. Parents Hannah and Sean are both flawed in their own ways; they don’t get it right every time and especially Hannah admits that she aims to be selfish as necessary to protect her own family – whatever it takes, even if it’s at the detriment of others. Of course, it isn’t always as easy as that when faced with real people, and I loved that the characters were convincing and not too ‘perfect’. They felt realistic and convincing and I hugely enjoyed reading about them all and the relationships between them: Hannah and Sean, kids Zac and Oscar, and other people too…
This book really made me think about what I’d do in this situation which I think is always the mark of a good book. I could put myself in Hannah’s situation, and the novel drills into the family’s relationships with each other.
The thing that’s so scary about this is that the start feels so normal. I can imagine there being some sort of virus spreading, and the niggling worry that it might reach your own country…then your own city or town… The fact that the book is also mostly set within the family’s house adds a real sense of claustrophobia, very similar (or so I imagine) as they themselves feel. However, there’s still an element of humour in there as Hannah and Sean try to do the best they can – it’s not a negative story. This set the novel apart from other books with a similar storyline – it wasn’t necessarily about anyone fighting off other people with the virus, or trying to solve/ cure/ discover more about it. It’s about an ordinary family coping in their own way, and the small but important measures they take to try and survive.
Overall, this drew me in completely and I raced through it, savouring every detail about the family’s (and indeed the country’s) life as they dealt with the ever spreading pandemic. Powerful, interesting and a little different – definitely recommended.
Many thanks to Headline for providing a copy of this novel on which I chose to write an honest and unbiased review.