A thrilling expedition to the literal ends of the Earth, Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy is a novel that aims to do more than tell a story. Instead, McConaghy forces the reader to dig deep into the darkest pits of emotionality, something few authors can pull off.
Migrations follows Franny Lynch, a recluse of a woman looking to trail a flock of artic terns from Greenland to the Antarctic. The only problem is that no boat will have her. In this near-apocalyptic version of Earth, over 80% of wildlife is dead. The terns are the last of their kind, and any vessel in the Artic is on the hunt for fish and fundamentally at odds with Franny’s mission.
At the outset of the novel, Franny meets Ennis Malone in a freezing fjord and, seemingly miraculously, they end up on his vessel, the Sanghani, with the hatched plan to follow the terns south. As the journey of the Sanghani’s crew unfolds, so does Franny’s tormented past. The deeper we delve into her memories, the more we get the feeling that something awful – or a lot of something awfuls — are haunting her past.
Poetic and rhythmic and twisting as the ocean they sail, McConaghy’s novel is a riveting masterpiece that tears through to a deeply held place – a place we often don’t want to go to, a place that will leave you ruined.
While McConaghy asks the reader to suspend belief again and again to get from plot point to plot point, it is well worth the effort. Migrations is a work of metaphor and almost dips into elements of magical realism with its far-fetched happenings. But when you step back to see that the book is not at all about terns or global warming, but about home, relationships, trauma, fear, and the migration that every soul makes from birth to death, you will see that the novel holds more than the need for plausibility.
Published by Flatiron Books in August of 2020, you can purchase a copy of Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy at your local independent bookstore.