The Animals in That Country: Winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award

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5.0 X 7.7 X 1.0 inches | 0.55 pounds

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About the Author

Laura Jean McKay is the author of The Animals in That Country (Scribe, 2020) -- winner of the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the Victorian Prize for Literature, and the ABIA Small Publishers Adult Book of the Year, and co-winner of the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Laura is also the author of Holiday in Cambodia (Black Inc., 2013). She was awarded the NZSA Waitangi Day Literary Honours in 2022.


"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

"Engrossing, subversive, and surprisingly profound, The Animals in That Country does something only the best fiction can do: it has the power to skew the reader's perspective on the world. This story will stay with me for a long time, and its protagonist, Jean Bennett, will be with me even longer."
--J.P. Pomare, author of Call Me Evie

"Weird, wonderful and strangely moving. I will be thinking about this strange book, about Jean and Sue, for a long long time."
--Eloise Grills, author of Big Beautiful Female Theory

"McKay is a master of voice-driven narrative. I never thought a substance-abusing grandmother was just who I needed to take me on an apocalyptic road trip--and that long after I gulped the book down, I'd be haunted by the words of a dingo called Sue."
--Sofija Stefanovic, author of Miss Ex-Yugoslavia

"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

"A timely dystopian novel in which a dangerous flu sweeps across Australia, giving those infected the power to speak with animals, with dark, disturbing results."
--Maxine Beneba Clarke

"An imaginative tour de force--assured, compelling, and utterly original, this book will change how you see the world. Laura Jean McKay's powers are in full evidence here: her singular gift for empathy, enviable storytelling chops, and deftly elegant language will shift your frame of reference and leave you altered, in the best of ways. A unique and important work that explores the bond between humans and animals--and indeed throws the whole dividing line between us into doubt."
--Meg Mundell, author of The Trespassers

"Part pandemic novel and part beast fable, McKay's novel, which takes its title from a Margaret Atwood poem, imagines a disease that causes humans to understand animal language, down to the lowliest insect. Acerbic wildlife guide Jean and a dingo named Sue set off through the Australian Outback in pursuit of the former's son, who has absconded south after losing his mind, like so many others, due to the new voices that now seemingly occupy every space."
--Publishers Weekly, "Going Viral: New Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020"

"As we grapple with a worldwide pandemic, Australian author McKay's novel is incredibly timely and feels all the more real for it ... filled with humor, optimism, and grace: a wild ride worth taking. An eye-opening glimpse into a world that's turned upside down and eventually becomes its own version of whole."
--Carol Gladstein, Booklist

"A wildly inventive dystopian adventure ... Both a hell of a ride and a revealing thought experiment about our place in the natural world."
--Dan Kois, Slate, "The 10 Best Books of 2020"

"[S]hit!! I'm like 70 pages in and just having the time of my life, everything about it is just chef's kiss for me right now. (Love a good asshole narrator! And the descriptions ... She's such a good writer it's blowing my mind)."
--Jacob Rogers, bookseller, McNally Jackson Books

"McKay does not offer us anthropomorphized cartoons, but a vocabulary formed by scent and breath ... As the novel progresses, and more animals are introduced, it becomes impossible not to believe in McKay's creative choices. In the arrangement and the rhythms and the personalities of each animal she translates, it is obvious McKay withheld nothing ... McKay has not written a white lie about how lovely it would be to speak with a dog. Instead, she has asked that necessary, and uncomfortable question: Do we really want to know what the rest of the planet thinks of us?"
--Necessary Fiction

"Disturbingly timely, The Animals In That Country chronicles the journey of one no-bullshit woman and her half-wild dingo as they race against a deadly pandemic. Jean is brilliantly crafted--unapologetically rough and yet filled with hidden vulnerability. McKay's tale pulled me in with its entertaining nature then dragged me under with its profound nuance."
--Laura Graveline, Brazos Bookstore

"The beauty of this book is that it never quite goes where the reader expects it to go. McKay zigs when the reader expects her to zag. And the whole builds to a kind of slow-moving climax ... The Animals in That Country takes an intriguing premise and absolutely runs with it. While delivering one of the strangest road trips ever, McKay considers the nature of family, the human response to the unknown and our relationship with the animals kingdom, among other things."
--Robert Goodman, The Blurb

"McKay has written a searing dystopian critique of our relationship with the natural world ... Through poetic projections of what the animals might say if they could, McKay highlights our limited capacity to communicate with language, and our human-centric view of the natural order ... Earthy, visceral, at-times obscene and all-too-real, The Animals In That Country is nevertheless compelling and oddly buoying ... McKay is a masterful storyteller, and her talent truly shines in this quest for family and belonging."
--Sheree Strange, Primer

"The genius stroke of The Animals in That Country is the preternatural 'body talk' of its animals ... an affecting book, one that gets remarkably close to the unknowable wildness of animal sentience."
--Jack Callil, The Age

"The writing is vibrant, energetic and refreshing, and the narrative leaps off the page ... a wild, engaging ride for readers."
--Karen Viggers, The Australian

"Laura Jean McKay, an expert in animal communication, has her animals speaking in hallucinogenic haikus--it's disturbing but compelling, and somehow totally believable. I loved every bizarre, unexpected moment."
--Corinna Hente, Herald Sun

"Surprising and surprisingly convincing characters, and a well-realized, inventive premise"
--Kate Evans, ABC News

"This is an absorbing and affecting book, and one to which I'm able to pay the highest compliment: that, in the days after finishing it, the world felt different to me, its animals not speaking but not silent either."
--Ben Brooker, Australian Book Review

"You know when you finish a book and you know that book will occupy your mind for a long time? The Animals in That Country is one of those. I haven't read a book like it and I don't think I will again ... The speech is almost poetic, full of metaphors and stunted syntax that (initially) confounds those hearing it ... This book is simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and soul-crushingly depressing, in a way I can only describe as reminiscent of Waiting for Godot."
--Max Lewis, Good Reading, five stars

"McKay is a master at building tension through sparse, abrupt language that mirrors Jean's decades of alcohol abuse, and the excellent world-building is enhanced by the exquisite chemistry between Jean and her canine companion Sue. Visceral and discombobulating yet tender, The Animals in That Country will appeal to readers who enjoyed the animal-led stories in Ceridwen Dovey's Only the Animals, and the foreboding road trip in Romy Ash's Floundering."

"If you read The Animals in That Country, it will be the wildest ride you take all year."
--Maria Takolander, The Saturday Paper

"Bold, exhilarating, and wholly original, Laura Jean McKay's The Animals in That Country asks what would happen, for better or worse, if we finally understood what animals were saying."
--Arts Review

"A wild and original ride of a read."
--New Idea

"Wow! The Animals in That Country is refreshingly original and totally bonkers, and I read it at a furious pace. Jean Bennett is one of the most memorable characters I've read in a long time. I loved her brass and her messiness, and when the end of times comes, most of us will be lucky to have half her loyalty and determination. The story is hugely imaginative and fully realized, with McKay in total control of her creative vision. She explores the potential of human/nonhuman communication, and the result is as poetic as it is surprising. A great debut novel."
--Alison Huber, Book Division Manager, Readings bookstore

"This novel is one wild ride, from beginning to end. I loved Jean's character--middle-aged, flawed, and foul-mouthed--desperately trying to keep herself together and to hold on to the family she has left. Sue the dingo is a glorious character, full of wild instinct yet all-knowing about the humans she encounters. This is one of the most unique, quirky stories I've read in a long time and a telling insight into how we see and relate to native wildlife. Laura Jean McKay's is a fresh, innovative voice with a story that grabs you by the muzzle, leading you on an apocalyptic trip that you won't forget easily."
--Jenny Barry, Booksplus

"This book drips with angst and excitement ... a truly original story teeming with intrigue."
--Suzie Bull, Farrells Bookshop

"Reminiscent of Ceridwen Dovey's Only the Animals, McKay offers an exciting and necessary new voice in Australian fiction. We've all wished we could talk to animals, but McKay teaches us that we really should be careful what we wish for. By turns bizarre and profound, this is a striking debut."
--Jaclyn Crupi, Hill of Content bookstore

"An incredible achievement in storytelling, and absolutely worth your time ... one of the best Australian novels of the year."
--Nicholas Wasiliev, Booktopia

"Eerily prescient ...The Animals in That Country offers a timely take on the fraught ways animals feature in our lives, and how devastating it would be if we heard what they had to say."
--Erin Stewart, ArtsHub, five stars

"This is a work of not only remarkable linguistic skill but also one that brilliantly captures our relationship with the inhabitants of this wild world."
--Mitchell Jordan, The Big Issue, four stars

"A standout debut novel of 2020 ... Original, hugely entertaining and superbly crafted, this is one heck of a road-trip novel, whose timing and insights into human behavior in a crisis could not be more prescient."
--Alison Huber, Readings Booksellers

"Strikingly original ... it's a tale that is at turns bizarre and surprisingly affecting, populated by a cast of richly idiosyncratic characters and posing timely questions about the ways we relate both to animals and to each other."
--Gemma Nisbet, The Weekend West

"This is a beguiling, thought-provoking story penned with passion, intricate animals knowledge and great creativity ... Disturbing, challenging, and addictive, the book prompts you to wonder about what animals are really thinking."
--Sue Wallace, The Weekly Times