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Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy review


Order Migrations over HERE (USA) or HERE(UK)


AUTHOR INFORMATION: Charlotte has been writing novels since she was fourteen. She spends most of her time imagining far distant lands full of intrigue and danger. Her first series 'The Strangers of Paragor' is an epic fantasy adventure for kids, and was published when she was seventeen. She has since gone on to write two new series for adults - 'The Chronicles of Kaya' and 'The Cure'. Both are full of sweeping romance, courageous heroes and dystopian struggles. She has a masters degree in screenwriting from the Australian Film Television and Radio School, and won the Australian Writer's Guild Award for Best Unproduced Screenplay in 2013.

FORMAT/INFO: Published 2020 by Flatiron Books. Length - 255 pages. Cover design by Keith Hayes.

OVERVIEW

“The Arctic tern has the longest migration of any animal. It flies from the Arctic all the way to the Antarctic, and then back again within a year. This is an extraordinarily long flight for a bird its size. And because the terns live to be thirty or so, the distance they will travel over the course of their lives is the equivalent of flying to the moon and back three times.”

Migrations is a remarkable book.

Set in the future, where climate change has almost completely wiped out the wildlife, it follows a woman determined to track the last remaining Arctic terns on their ultimate migration. Migrations' protagonist, Franny, pursues this goal with extreme dedication. Throughout the story, we learn about her past, complex relationships, and manslaughter she's, supposedly, committed.

Franny has mixed Irish/Australian origin; She doesn't feel at home anywhere. As a kid, she loved birds and she suffocates in a world devoid of birdsong. She's driven and focused, but also sensible to the world. Her bitter thoughts about the influence of humans on the environment resonated with me and probably will resonate with others.

"Thousands of species are dying right now, and being ignored. We are wiping them out. Creatures that have learned to survive anything, everything, except us.”

As brutal as it sounds, it's true. One more, ok?

"The rhythms of the sea’s tides are the only things we humans have not yet destroyed"

The story focuses as much on Franny's obsession, as on revealing her secrets. Readers interested in a psychological drama will love it, but those reading climate-fiction for broader context (like how does a world without animals function) will find the plot barely scratching the surface of the problems. Putting it bluntly, Migrations will, probably, disappoint plot or science-oriented readers. But it will awe those who enjoy elegant prose and elements of magical realism. The narrative shifts between the adventure story, domestic drama, moments of obsession and delight, and magical elements giving it the otherworldly quality. 

Franny feeds us half-truths and holds back a lot before the final reveal, but I didn't mind; I love unreliable narrators with dark pasts. The story jumps back and forth in time and place, but everything that happens (and how it happens) is central to the plot. 

Franny's emotional turmoil and traumatic past result in unpredictable behavior, sleepwalking, and a sense of isolation. Members of the crew of the fishing boat she joins have troubled pasts too. Their profession is about to be outlawed (trawlers have depleted seas) and so they follow Franny hoping the remaining terns will help them make the last catch that will allow them to retire.  

CONCLUSION: Migrations has a peculiar, otherworldly, quality and dark atmosphere. It's filled with grief and sadness, and it gives little hope for a better tomorrow. I loved it nonetheless. Highly recommended.


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