Charlotte McConaghy’s “Migrations”: A Review

“It isn’t fair to be the kind of creature who is able to love but unable to stay.”


Three chapters into Charlotte McConaghy’s Migrations, I was struck by that rare, wonderful feeling that I had stumbled onto something secret and gorgeous. A self-proclaimed slow reader, I rarely read a book within a few days. But I couldn’t tear my eyes away from McConaghy’s quiet, enthralling, debut work. 
The novel follows Franny Stone, an ornithologist in a world deadened by climate change. She is determined to follow the last of arctic terns on their migration from the Arctic to the Antarctic in which is one of the longest journeys any animal makes in the world. Her journey takes her through the lives of other people, places, and her own memories.


It’s hard to describe exactly what this book is, or why it is so beautiful. All of McConaghy’s characters are so well-sketched, each having their own little nuances, emotions, and idiosyncrasies. We feel for them, as well as for the world they live in, a world that may one day become ours. It is a climate change novel, yes, but also a love letter to the world we are destroying, and the wonder we will destroy with it. 
The plot is peppered with little mysteries that kept me wanting to know more. I found myself thinking toward the end, ‘there’s no way all of these unknowns will come to light by the last page––a good ending is hard to pull off. But then the resolution is so carefully crafted, so elegantly spun that it is both satisfying and heartbreaking.


Ultimately, this book is about nature and our connection to nature. it’s about unconditionally loving other living things, not because they provide humans with something, but because they are elegant, miraculous beings in their own right. But it also manages, somehow, about our connection to other people, and maybe that goes hand in hand.

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