Friday, May 19, 2017
Book Review: Before This Is Over by 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?
Before This Is Over by Amanda Hickie is a subtle and touching novel, focusing on the Halloran family who are trying to survive and keep safe during dangerous times, times when anything and everything could be a risk, and when trying to make a decision doesn't affect just one person but an entire household. Going into this novel, I was excited to see how Amanda Hickie had decided to handle the situation she'd placed her characters in. It's not normally the sort of novel I'd find myself reading, but for the simple mention of 'family' on the cover, it reached a part of me that adores novels based on that very thing. Immediately, my mind began swarming with all manner of thoughts, mostly about what I'd do if I were in a situation much like the one presented in the book. It's certainly a thought-provoking premise, one that felt unique and intriguing to me, and I really couldn't wait to begin.
In Amanda Hickie's 'Before This Is Over', readers are introduced to Hannah. Hannah is mother to her two sons, Oscar and Zac, and also wife to husband, Sean. At the beginning, the epidemic that the novel mostly focuses on, amongst many other things, is not enough to really get people panicking, but it's clear, from the subtle tone to the first couple of chapters, that Hannah is getting worried, and it soon becomes obvious, despite the comforting words from her husband Sean, that actually, the epidemic is beginning to get out of hand. As the number of deaths rises day by day, Hannah cannot bear the thought of her eldest son, Zac, not being with them, and so she, Sean and Oscar head off to bring him home from the summer camp he has gone to. When they end up returning with not only Zac but one of his friends too, Hannah's thoughts continue to turn to the epidemic and how on earth she is going to manage to keep all of them safe.
Hickie includes things like food rationing and water rationing which really brought a sense of isolation to the novel. I loved that these details were paid attention to, because it made it feel that bit more real. I felt that the novel really picked up pace when even Sean, who seemed like he was the person trying to keep everyone calm, began to worry too. When news of a few of his colleagues having contracted the virus reaches him, even he begins to become a little subdued and not as chirpy as he previously was. I think the added aspect of the children, not only Hannah's and Sean's, but another couple's son, really heightened the tension within this novel, making it all the more important for everyone in the Halloran household to get through to the other side of it. After all, they were suddenly responsible for someone else's son, so Hannah of course felt it was her duty to keep him safe and sound as well as her own children. But then there are the neighbours, and the outside world, and the very air itself to contend with, all of which adds up to an invisible battle for Hannah, one of which she's not so sure that she'll win. With a new threat to their safety around every corner, and the attempts to make their food and water last as long as possible, as well as the hysteria that surfaces every time someone simply coughs, this was a dramatic yet beautifully drawn-out novel that brings to the surface the love a mother has for her children, and how much she's willing to do, and what she'll sacrifice, in order to keep them safe.
Before This Is Over by Amanda Hickie is a novel full of heart, warmth and soul, despite the dangerous and unpredictable circumstances in which it is set. Hard-hitting and incredibly thought-provoking, I really enjoyed this book and will certainly be keeping an eye out for news of Amanda Hickie's next release. It was a refreshing change from my usual choices, one which I thoroughly enjoyed spending my time within, and one which had my mind ticking over constantly. With thanks to the publisher for the review copy of this book.
You can purchase your copy of Amanda Hickie's 'Before This Is Over' here.