I fell in love with the title and cover of this book, and the pre-pub blurb appealed. A woman, a wanderer by nature, treks to Greenland to locate the last flock of Arctic terns and track their final migration from the Arctic to the Antarctic. Sounds good, huh?
It is. Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy is brilliantly conceived and beautifully written. The protagonist, Franny Stone, is a troubled young woman, a haunted soul with a harrowing past, grounded only by her life of wildlife in general and birds in particular.
How not to feel for her? Her family is an enigma, even while her love for her husband, a fellow ornithologist, is poignantly drawn.
There is a futuristic element to this book. Though to judge from the state of technology, the story takes place roughly in our time, the author creates a world in which the majority of wildlife has gone extinct. Climate change is an evil here, as is human avarice.
Buy into that, and you’re good to go.
Migrations is breathtaking. The prose is as vivid as both landscape and seascape. The characters are flawed but sympathetic and real, and while I didn’t identify with their lives, I liked them enough to truly care.
If you have problems with non-linear plots, beware. The action goes back and forth in time, revealing the characters’ pasts little by little. Often this is difficult with an audiobook, where you can’t as easily flip back and forth to get your bearings. Still, I followed the story well. The audiobook reader is excellent.
Theme-wise, Migrations is a story of the search for self, the search for where we come from, and where we’re going. It is the story of a blinding passion that, like birds during migration, drives us on, day after day. It is bleak at times, victorious at others – but well worth experiencing, start to finish.
Days now after finishing the book, I still hear Franny’s voice, see the vast expanse of her world, and mourn the loss of animal life that we humans have caused.