‘Migrations’ by Charlotte McConaghy

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.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

‘The Lauras’ by Sara Taylor

the-lauras-sara-taylorA profusion of poetic genius, The Lauras by Sara Taylor is a book that could make anyone an emotional wreck.

Taylor’s second novel follows Alex and her journey with Ma across the country. We meet Alex at the age of thirteen as Ma rips her out of bed running away from Alex’s rather kind father. Alex is sure that the stint will last only a day or two, but months and states later, she realizes Ma might have something more in mind. Piecing together patches from her past, Ma begins to reveal to Alex the hardships, friends (mostly people named Laura), and experiences that have made Ma the unique, spunky, rule breaking mother she is now. As Ma’s story unfolds, Alex begins to build more of her own story.

Alex is a preteen struggling with the idea of gender, the conundrum of feeling like she doesn’t have a gender, an experience of sexual violation, and the challenges of moving from place to place with only her mother for company. Taylor does a beautiful job of addressing these very sensitive topics in a way that doesn’t feel staged or clinical or planned. Alex is who she is and we, as the reader, never know her gender, and Taylor reminds us in the most subtle ways that we really shouldn’t care. In terms of Alex’s trauma related to the forced sexual experience she has had is portrayed eloquently and nearly perfectly. The PTSD, the feelings of worthlessness, the overly sexual desires, the suicidal thoughts all capture Alex’s dilemma without targeting her as a victim but rather showing her humanity.

The experiences that Alex and Ma have go from interesting to wild fairly quickly, and the reader is dragged along almost unexpectedly on a story of adventure, heartbreak, and transformation. Taylor’s prose, content, and form are all perfectly aligned to bring readers a story that is nearly impossible to put down.

Published by Hogarth Publishing in August of 2017, The Lauras is available for purchase at your local bookstore.

Read more fiction book reviews at Centered on Books.

FTC Disclaimer: This book was given to me in return for a fair and honest review of the text.