Author: Charlotte McConaghy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Published: 4 August 2020
Franny Stone has always been a wanderer. Never staying in one place for too long. It’s like a family curse. Yet, when the wild creatures that she loves begins to disappear, Franny can no longer wander without a destination. She is in Greenland trying to find a captain of a ship that will willingly take a trip all the way to Africa. She is falling the migration of the world’s last flock of Artic Terns. Propelled by a fierce and fragile narrator, Migrations is a beautiful ode to the wild places and the creatures now threatened.
Describing this book in the above summary does not do it justice. There are many themes and threads throughout this book that amazingly come together and raise so many questions. To fully describe what happens, I’m going to discuss this through its multiple genres: science fiction/dystopian, family drama, mystery, and literary fiction.
- Science Fiction/Dystopian: the world that Charlotte McConaghy’s creates is not society’s with government’s on the brink of collapse, nor is it a young adult novel with a young girl trying to start a revolution. No. This science fiction/dystopian novel is one that is a distinct possibility for our own future. Wild places are being taken over. Creatures are slowly dying. There are two distinct scenes/passages that come to my mind immediately. Franny is sailing on a fisherman’s ship when they come across a landmass. “We are a plague one the world, my husband often says. Today there is a huge landmass to out left, and it surprises me because there is no land on the chart I’ve been studying. As we draw close enough to see, I realize that it’s an enormous island of plastic, and there are fish and seabirds and seals dead upon its shore” (165). The next scene is in a flashback to when Franny watched a new cast about someone finding a gray wolf, “a lone gray wolf has been discovered and captured in Alaska, amazing scientists who believed them extinct. Authorities were alerted to its existence after it killed a flock of livestock south of the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Experts say this behavior only occurred because its own natural habitat and food sources have all perished, but they fail to understand how this solitary creature-a female-could have survived so long undetected and alone” (192). McConaghy’s beautiful prose and haunting passages bring to life a future that is horrible and one I hope we can all agree to avoid.
- Family Drama: Franny is lost to a family that seems to be cursed never to fully stay in one place. She’s also plagued by the loss of her mother, the mother she thought had run away when she was only a child. Her father is someone who was never there for her when she was born or at all during her life. Once she’s an adult, she’s never stayed in one place nor has she connected to anyone. Franny is someone who lives on the world instead of in it. She still finds love though. Niall Lynch is a professor at a university who is passionate about environmental issues, a passion they both share. But not all is as happy as it would seem. Franny and Niall try to navigate a marriage that is difficult when one person has never had to rely on anyone nor have anyone rely on her. There are more problems going on, something the reader cannot quite figure out, which brings us to the next genre.
- Mystery: At the end of chapter two, we are left with this scene. Franny is sitting in an interrogation room at a police station in Galway, Ireland. A detective comes in, “I see it then: the horror she has been working to hide from me. It slides over her eyes like a veil. ‘They’re dead, Franny.’ But I already know that” (34). I’m not going to spoil what happens because it’s a main part of the plot and ending. Suffice to say that the mystery is more heartbreaking and horrific in a subtle way than what the reader first thinks. It’s definitely not something I saw coming.
- The last genre, Literary Fiction: This is what ties all of these together. The themes that come out of the above genres are all tough, important topics that need to be discussed. What are we going to do with the future? With greenhouse gases rising and ice caps melting, there needs to be plans going forward. Psychological problems and family destruction that is a continuous cycle until one person breaks it. Same with climate change, conservation, and entire species dying. Someone has to break the cycle. The other point to make about the literary aspect is that narratively McConaghy has flashbacks throughout the novel. The flashbacks go all the way back to when Franny is a child to just two years before her trip on the Saghani. While I love flashbacks and multiple perspectives, I did have a difficult time with this one, as the flashbacks are in the middle of chapters. The only reason I did demote it the half star was for this.
While the writing was gorgeous, and I bawled like a baby at the end, I will leave everyone with this one remark (that does kind of spoil the ending a bit, but I want to leave everyone with some hope), Franny is the one who breaks the cycle. Maybe not right away. She has to push and fight her way to do so, but she gets there. And she is all the stronger for it.
Happy Reading Darlings!