A thought-provoking read that sees the world slowly run out of water – and a great example of a ‘what if’ novel.
Thirsty Animals is set in Scotland, about now-ish. As the book begins, there is already trouble. The price of water is rising, and people are desperately travelling north in search of safer (and wetter) havens. But there is no rain.
Our main character, Aida, is forced to return home to the rural farm where her mum lives. It’s not what she wanted from life, but it’s safe enough, for now. The taps are still working, but water is switched off overnight. No one knows what’s coming next.
Then strangers turn up at the farm, in dire need of help…
It’s a tense read, but the tension builds up slowly at first as the reader gets sucked into the world that Atalla has created. There are foundations to be built, so that we understand Aida and all the other inhabitants of the farm. So that we understand why they let strangers stay, why they don’t ask some of the questions that maybe need asking. It takes time, and some might find it frustrating, but I found it intriguing – getting clear sight of everything as the pot begins to boil over, as the water situation gets worse, day by day by slow day. At around the 50% mark, the plot begins to speed up, the tension rises and the situation escalates.
I found myself gripped by a sinking feeling of doom. Perhaps it didn’t help that I read it as UK supermarkets were running out of common fruit and vegetables – showing so clearly how quickly the world as we know it (or casually take for granted) can come to a stop.
However, for much of the read, I didn’t know how I was going to rate the book. I love a good ‘what if’ but I also need glimpses of hope in my fiction. Despair alone doesn’t cut it for me.
No spoilers, but I was able to find my moments of hope in the end. This one will stay with me for a while. It won’t be everyone’s cup of tea (e.g. the dialogue has no punctuation, as with Atalla’s The Pharmacist) but I loved this read.
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