The reviews have been coming in for An Ordinary Epidemic and they are fantastic! Here are a couple to give you an idea:
Books+Publishing, review by Jessica Broadbent, librarian and former bookseller
‘What would you do in an epidemic? Stock up your pantry, gather your family and wait it out? But what if one of your kids was away on a school excursion? An Ordinary Epidemic explores these decisions and considers how broader society might cope with unexpected change—for example, what would happen if all the power plant workers decided to go home to their own families? It’s utterly fascinating, a little gruesome and impossible to put down. Set in Sydney and revolving around Hannah, her husband and two sons, the story is both familiar and completely strange. From taking sensible precautions to avoid an infectious disease to contemplating a self-imposed quarantine, Hannah has to weigh up life-or-death decisions for herself and her family. Sydney author Amanda Hickie’s second novel really captures the claustrophobia of quarantine, and the threat of someone clearing their throat or an accidental brush of skin. This is a slow-burn thriller that would make an excellent choice for a book club as it raises lots of discussion points.’
Clothesline, review by Rosie van Heerde, high school teacher and reviewer
In An Ordinary Epidemic, emerging writing talent Amanda Hickie tells the extraordinary tale of Sydneysider mother of two, Hannah, as she desperately tries to save her young family from the deadly ‘Manba’ virus sweeping the globe. Together with her husband and sons, Hannah retreats to the only place in Sydney she knows to be truly safe – her home. As she busies herself checking online updates and stocking her pantry, Hannah is as prepared as she can be. An unlikely protagonist at first, she is seemingly paranoid and increasingly obsessive in her preparations for ‘the worst’. The quality of Hickie’s writing however ensures the reader is positioned to experience her growing fear for her family’s survival – it becomes impossible not to identify with Hannah as a woman, a wife, a parent.
As the reality of their situation sets in, the family needs to navigate their way through a myriad of emotions and decisions as they grapple with the knowledge that the world has changed forever. Food supplies seem their greatest concern at first, however it soon becomes clear there are other things to be worried about. First the water is cut off, then the electricity. They ration their one remaining mobile phone because they know when that battery eventually dies, they will be completely alone. Too afraid to journey beyond their front door, the family’s self-imposed prison becomes a breeding ground for boredom and the fear that comes from not knowing what is happening ‘on the outside’.
Graphics mark the chapters in Hannah’s journey, a calendar with each passing day shaded – a stark illustration of their relentless isolation. This glaring addition works well when juxtaposed against the development of Hannah and her family’s experiences and reactions – as the days mount, so too does the pressure created by captivity and proximity. Hickie has crafted fine characters – each entirely believable in their responses to this incredible situation.
Zach is absolutely spot on as the self-absorbed teenager that he is, struggling to cope with his own identity and the challenge of learning that his mother makes mistakes. Husband, Sean is the steady voice of reason to Hannah’s growing panic, yet even he is not immune to bouts of churlishness and depression. Youngest son, Oscar and neighbour’s child, Ella provide both a platform for Hannah’s need to protect her own young at all costs and one of many moral dilemmas to be faced by the family – is the life a small child worth risking your own family for? Or how about the life of an elderly neighbour, cut off from family, friends and Meals On Wheels? How far should one go to share your meagre food stocks with those formerly known as friends?
Despite the ghastly subject matter, An Ordinary Epidemic is a heartening account of a mother’s love and of ordinary human beings desperately needing to survive with their humanity intact. The richly layered text works to make this novel a rewarding experience, ensuring that one cannot help but be drawn into Hannah’s new world order. You will read this and imagine your own family in their place.