Staff Review: ‘Before this is over’ by Amanda Hickie

Having grown up in south Louisiana, I’m no stranger to disaster preparedness. Hurricane season coincided with the end of school/beginning of summer break and meant stockpiling canned foods, dry cereals, crackers, batteries, and flashlights. Ensuring your car never dipped below half a tank of gas was an idea drilled into us all in those months. And the end of the season, most of which thankfully passed uneventfully, meant the excitement of digging into that hands-off stockpile of junk food!

I say mostly uneventful, but there were enough bad seasons that that preparedness was never something I took for granted, even after leaving the area. And so, maybe it’s a bit twisted that I enjoy so many post apocalyptic and disaster driven stories! Or maybe it’s an understanding of the fear that can drive a person in those situations.

Whatever the reason, Amanda Hickie’s Before This is Over was definitely high on my reading radar.

The premise is this: a highly contagious and deadly virus has been making the rounds. At the start of the story it has yet to actually hit Australia, but Hannah knows it’s coming. And so she’s started to prepare. She has her own stockpile of food and necessities, some of which she’s tried to hide from her husband – who believes she’s already being overly cautious.

And yet some would say she isn’t cautious enough considering, after pressure from both her son and her husband, she allows her eldest son to take a trip across the country while all of this is going on. And of course, while he’s gone the first cases appear in neighboring cities.

Before This is Over is the kind of book that really makes a reader consider how they themselves might react in Hannah’s situation. While everyone else believes her to be on the extreme side of paranoia, her husband included, it turns out that paranoia is exactly what leaves them better off than their neighbors. But would you, in Hannah’s situation, do the same? Would you take precautions before those around you even consider it? Would you hoard food and supplies in, what seems in the beginning, the off chance that disaster will hit?

Like many, Hannah’s motivation is in protecting those closest to her and Hickie does an amazing job of bringing that need through in her writing. Hannah’s love and fear are so palpable that it pulls the reader through the story, making it a truly intense reading experience.

Of course, in a time of ebola, and zika, amongst others, it’s no surprise to learn that Hickie drew on her own fears (of SARS, no less) in putting together her debut. One hopes writing it was a cathartic experience – or maybe she can draw some relief in knowing that many reading the tale will share in her fears!

I’d like to believe that I would be somewhat prepared but who knows. It’s definitely something I pondered over even after I turned the final pages.

If you’re looking for an absolutely chilling read this summer, Before This is Over is perfect. It’s also a great pick for your book club – a definite conversation starter that will no doubt lead to some interesting discussions!


-Becky Lejeune