MIGRATIONS by Charlotte McConaghy is the kind of book that is the reason why I read: to slip into the skin of a character and fully inhabit her anguish, joys, thoughts, fears… to be transported to a different setting that I can experience in every possible sensory way. And, frankly, to learn something new.
MIGRATIONS delivered all these things and more (including an emotional intensity that left me ‘feeling’ in such a profound way, I was literally breathless). I read this novel as slowly as I possibly could, knowing this was a book I would want to savor. I could drag it out no further, because I needed answers and needed to know the outcome. (But oh how I miss these characters already!) The reveal of clues and backstory was just perfectly timed to hold my attention.
Franny and Niall have a connection to the earth and wildlife (birds, in particular), and I must say – for that reason – I related to both, equally. I can’t count the number of times I nodded my head in agreement at their sentiments and sorrows regarding a future with quickly-disappearing wildlife.
In fact, while I was reading, migratory songbirds were literally dropping from the sky in New Mexico and Colorado (smoke from CA, CO, AZ, NM fires; scarce food from lack of rain; climate change). So this one hits home – though not in a preachy way – regarding man’s impact on the natural world. Yet, it also illustrates man’s compassion for non-human life.
MIGRATIONS is character-driven, literary fiction at its absolute best. It is one of the best – if not the best – first-person narrative I’ve ever read. Some examples of the amazing writing you can expect:
“Why did he say that thing, that wrecking ball of a thing, and did he mean it? Did he know, somehow, that I’ve been wanting for someone to smash me to bits, to do the wrecking so I mustn’t always do it myself? …”
“The horses thunder by, a storm of sound. Two tails of red hair stream out behind them, tangled with the dark manes of the animals. …”
“Tell me where they fly,” I murmur, and he does, he takes me over oceans and onto foreign continents, he takes me to the other end of the earth, father than anyone has yet followed. In his voice I hear tears. I turn to him. …”
MIGRATIONS may feel dark/heavy, but there is hope interlaced – and despite me having issues with reading during Covid (and feeling like I need more ‘happy’ these days), I experienced NONE of those issues with this book. The story itself, the unanswered questions for which I needed answers, the beautiful writing, the love of nature, the emotional resonance … I was hooked from the first sentence. It really is a remarkable book.
Charlotte McConaghy is super talented. I’ve already suggested this book to five friends. It is my absolute favorite this year, chock full of foreshadowing, symbolism, and allegory that is artfully woven into the story. I’m so happy this author decided to hop genres and write her first adult literary novel and simply cannot wait for her next. I’ll be first in line!
(A version of Melissa Crytzer Fry’s review of MIGRATIONS by Charlotte McConaghy was published at GoodReads on October 22, 2020. It is reposted here with permission of the reviewer.)
You can find more reviews by Melissa Crytzer Fry — HERE.