About the author

Laura Jean McKay

About the book

Judges' report

Laura Jean McKay’s prescient The Animals in That Country begins as a flu-like pandemic spreads its way across the countryside, rendering those afflicted with the ability to understand what animals, both wild and domestic, have to say. The plot is centred on Jean, together with the dingo Sue, embarking on a chaotic road trip to retrieve her granddaughter from her estranged son, who has spirited her away. As well as an intriguing plot, the author has gifted the reader a most unusual protagonist, the hard drinking and smoking, somewhat unreliable grandmother, Jean.

 As the action progresses the voices of the various animal species become more urgent. Their dialogue is poetic yet also visceral, disturbing, challenging and often funny. The Animals in That Country explores our – often fraught – relationships with family, animals, environment and country and how we commodify and abuse each and all of these. A must read.

Further reading


‘A fierce debut novel … Her writing about people is filthy, fresh and funny; this is prose on high alert, hackles up and teeth bared in every sentence. ’ Justine Jordan, The Guardian

‘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

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


Read ‘Q&A with Laura Jean McKay’ via the Sydney Writers’ Festival

Read ‘As coronavirus keeps us apart, we will let the animals in. I hope we do them justice’ by Laura Jean McKay, The Guardian

Listen to ‘Writing in the Time of Coronavirus: Contagion and Zombie Fiction’ featuring Laura Jean McKay via ABC’s The Book Show

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