Readers of my blog will know that I LOVE stories about the (possible) end of the world, and so I was thrilled to be offered a proof of Before This is Over by the publisher, Headline.
Hannah lives in Sydney with her husband and two sons, and is unnerved by the stories of a deadly new virus, Manba, that is sweeping the globe. Believing that it’s only a matter of time until the virus lands on their own doorstep, Hannah begins stockpiling food, and rationing what they have at meal times. Her family, of course, think she’s nuts, and largely ignore her efforts.
At first, anyway.
Then the first cases are announced in Australia, and it’s not long before Sydney is declared a quarantine zone. Trapped in their home, they are initially comfortable. But then the water supply is cut off, followed by the electricity. And each day their food supplies dwindle a little further…
Many novels that focus on such an event are quite extreme – a small handful of people are left to survive against hunger, feral dogs, and the gangs that inevitably spring up from nowhere. If you’re looking for a novel that is perhaps a little more reflective of how an epidemic might actually start, this could be the book for you. It takes place almost entirely in Hannah’s home, and shows the moral choices faced by Hannah and her family as they have to choose whether to share their ever-dwindling food supplies, and the lengths they have to go to to avoid crossing paths with someone who might have caught the virus.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that this novel is slow or unexciting because of this, however – I think that this is probably one of the most realistic stories about a viral epidemic that I’ve read, and I was captivated by the story of this one family’s struggle to survive against the odds. And if there’s any lesson here, it’s that no matter how carefully you plan, there’s always something else that could happen, which happens many times in Before This is Over.
Hannah is one of those characters that grew on me as the novel progressed. I initially found her to be quite irritating in her over the top approach, and even though I knew from the blurb that she was right to act as she did, I thought that she took it to extremes:
she still didn’t know the difference between prudence and hysteria
I did feel sympathy for her, however, and I came to greatly admire her courage and determination to get her family through this crisis. And I have to admit that I’m not sure that I’d have made the same choices that she did throughout the novel, but that’s the beauty of it – it takes a difficult situation, and forces the protagonist to make hard choices that will affect not just her, but her family as well.
One thing I like about novels such as this is imagining how I would deal in that scenario (yes, it’s slightly morbid, I know), and this was a perfect novel for putting yourself in the character’s shoes and trying to make decisions that won’t leave you and your family without supplies. An excellent, thought-provoking read of one family’s struggle to survive an all too plausible epidemic in modern society.
Before This is Over was originally published as An Ordinary Epidemic in 2015, and has been republished under its new title by Headline. It is available to buy now as an eBook, and will be published in paperback on 2 November. Many thanks to Hannah Wann and Marion Donaldson for providing a copy for review.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐