Author Amanda Hickie was living in Canada when severe acute respiratory syndrome SARS hit Toronto in 2003. The panicked response to that outbreak, spread first by travelers returning from Asia and then among health care workers and patients at Toronto hospitals, fuels Hickie's chilling new novel, "Before This is Over."
As the novel opens, the deadly Manba virus is threatening to reach Sydney, Australia, where Hannah, a cancer survivor and mother of two, is preoccupied with disaster preparations that annoy her husband. An impending crisis is almost fun, an excuse to be selfish with a mild risk of looking a little foolish until she actually must shut her family inside their home.
Within the confines of their house, Hannah feels like a hero and her family relaxes. The couple bickers, their kids get bored; breakfast has to be made, followed by lunch, and then there's dinner. Hannah obsessively checks the rising death toll online, but that's not as jarring as the sudden loss of electricity or the reappearance of a neighbor. Hickie packs mundane moments with a building sense of dread: Will Hannah's miscalculation about the amount of toilet paper one person uses be a fatal mistake, or just another inconvenience in their little domestic adventure?