BEFORE THIS IS OVER by Amanda Hickie is a powerful, thought-provoking drama that looks at one family in the heart of a devastated community and compels us to ask: how far would I go to save my children?
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?
Originally published under the title AN ORDINARY EPIDEMIC.
Before this is Over is a thrilling story packed full of tension and anxiety, from the first few pages right until the very end. Amanda’s prose is intense and so atmospheric that I felt like I was an actual member of the Halloran family. The overall sense of pressure and stifling presence in the home was suffocating as the family tried to ride out the terrifying epidemic. However, in many ways this pressure on the inside was actually nothing in comparison as to what was waiting for them beyond their own front door. When coupled with a visual calendar in the book, which marked off each week that passed during their quarantine, there was a real fear that it was only a matter of time before the family faced their worst fears.
For seven weeks the family do everything they can to survive. The books strongest element was therefore a case of not what happens, but rather what if? This forced me, as the reader, to ask myself what I would do in this situation- the same as the Halloran’s or something entirely different? This questioning sticks with you throughout as the story progresses, especially as the family encounter decisions involving the elderly, children, neighbours and even pets (yes, that one did choke me!) What is scary to think, and I think many readers will consider this, is whether something similar to this scenario could possibly one day become a reality. This isn’t your zombie apocalypse kind of stuff, this is actually a more terrifying prospect!
I loved Hannah’s character with her ability to see what was ahead and take care of her family, despite already having fought for her life against cancer before the epidemic had even begun. Hannah’s character is perfectly contrasted against that of her husband, Sean, who tended to put emotions before practicality. It was great to see a strong female lead, especially a mother, for Hannah did what she thought was best, however hard it may have made her seem to others, and it is this resilience that kept them working as a family when they needed it the most.
The concept of Before this is Over makes for a thoroughly engaging read which stays with you long after you’ve read the book. There are so many pointers for discussion which would make this the perfect reading group book.
Many thanks to the lovely people at NetGalley for allowing me to read and review this fabulous book.
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ISBN: 9780316355452 Kindle Edition Out Now.
ISBN: 9781472240057 Paperback Out 2nd November 2017.