The Animals in that Country, by Laura Jean McKay

Second paragraph of third chapter (a long one):

When I can stand without wobbling, I walk. The row behind me a dusty dream. I started out in one of the bigger houses hidden in the dense jungles of the Park, where Angela and Kimberly live now. Sometimes on a really hot or busy day, or if I’ve had one too many, I forget I don’t live there anymore. My feet walk me right up into the Park grounds where I lived with Graham, and Lee when he came home, in a house that looked over the bushy rear of the dingo enclosure. Back then, Graham did the Park’s maintenance and I had a cleaning job doing the toilets, the café, the gift shop, and all the offices. Used to read the manager’s emails for a laugh. I know exactly how much shit the Park was in before our Ange took over. It was a good life after being on the road so long. Me and Graham grew a bit of sneaky marijuana in the roof of the house. He could fix anything that didn’t have a heart, and our Lee dropped out of high school and went up to the city to play bongo drums and pick up backpackers. He’d come down to the Park on the weekends and test his charms out on the rangers — until he got Angela in trouble and it all went balls up. We battled it out until Kimberly was born, then Graham fucked off back down south and Lee followed him. Me back in the workforce as a guide and moved out to the row. Ange, a single parent with a good head on her shoulders. We do alright.

Again, an Arthur C. Clarke Award winner, this time from two years ago. I thought this was very enjoyable indeed, though also rather grim with its theme of eco-catastrophe in Australia. The central character is a middle-aged woman sharing the care of her granddaughter with her estranged son’s ex, who is also her boss. Plague hits the population, thematic for a 2020 novel, though not as inconvenient as COVID with the side benefit of enabling communication with animals. And the animals are not anthropomorphised; they are just about comprehensible in their own way. The human and natural landscapes of Australia are evocatively portrayed, and I can see why it appealed to that year’s judges. Recommended. You can get it here.

The other finalists were Chilling Effect, by Valerie Valdes; Edge of Heaven, by R. B. Kelly;
The Infinite, by Patience Agbabi; Vagabonds, by Hao Jingfang and The Vanished Birds, by Simon Jimenez. I have only read the last of these, as the author was up for the Astounding Award that year, but lost to Emily Tesh. (I really liked it.) Apart from that, none of the six was on the final ballot for the Hugo, Nebula, Otherwise or BSFA Awards. The Animals in that Country did win the Aurealis Award, but lost the Ditmar to The Left-Handed Booksellers of London, by Garth Nix.