MIGRATIONS, by Charlotte McConaghy, is certainly a novel for our times. In the not so distant future in a time of extreme climate change, a young woman named Franny Stone takes us on one of the harshest journeys any protagonist ever has. And so we begin.
THE ANIMALS ARE DYING. SOON WE WILL BE ALONE HERE. This is the first line of the novel. It was a total attention-getter for me. We begin in Greenland as Franny is hard at work tagging the tiny legs of arctic terns. You see, she’s bound and determined to follow what could very well be their last yearly migration from Greenland to Antarctica. Franny’s been out in the freezing cold and wet for six days before she finally decides its time to move on to the next step: finding a ship headed to sea .
Who is Franny Stone? Nobody, really. She’s the wife of Niall who is a renowned ornithologist and we get to meet him throughout the book in spits and starts. To say Franny is a lover of nature and birds in particular is a gross understatement. She’s totally infatuated. To the Nth degree. Niall has always had a special affinity toward the plight of the Arctic tern and so Franny is following his passion. And she’s about to get the attention of a wild group of fisher people who spend the majority of their lives on the sea and working in the most basic conditions. Franny is able to coerce captain Ennis to take her on their journey by convincing him that she is his only ticket to finding fish in these challenging times. Follow her terns, the fish will appear. And off they go; the most unlikely of crews.
McConaghy shows us bits and pieces of Franny’s life over the chapters. And we come to slowly see where she came from. Abandoned by her mother at a young age, she spends the rest of her life trying to find her and who she was . This can’t help but affect how she lives her life and why she can not stay anywhere for any length of time. By the time Franny meets her husband it might just be too late for change…. And where is Niall anyway?
Every time I thought I knew all there was about Franny’s background, along some new reality would bang down right in front of me smashing my thoughts to smithereens. This is a character I will never forget but I can’t say I liked her.
So, here we are, in a future so close we can almost touch it. Surrounded by desperate people doing mostly desperate things. Climate change is a very real thing. Animals are pretty much extinct in this novel and birds are going the same way. Will people be next? I don’t usually read novels that are apocalyptic. However, this story is so very important as well as not so very far in the future. I took a chance. It’s important. It’s timely. It will move you and may change you forever.
McConaghy has written a haunting and visceral novel that is unbelievably ballsy and accomplished. She’s a writer out of Australia who is writing what we now call eco-fiction. MIGRATIONS may remind some readers of STATIONS ELEVEN or FLIGHT BEHAVIOR. Her attention to detail is second to none. Her sense of place is stunning.
I know I’ll be telling everyone about this new novel for a long time. I feel it’s going to be one of the important books of the year!
We have copies of MIGRATIONS for sale at Copperfish Books right now and they are discounted 20% off. My review copy came from Flatiron Books in exchange for an honest review. Honestly, one of the best books of the year!