Migrations: A Novel

by Charlotte McConaghy

Hardcover, 2020

Call number




Flatiron Books (2020), Edition: 1st Edition, 272 pages


"Franny Stone has always been a wanderer. By following the ocean's tides and the birds that soar above, she can forget the losses that have haunted her life. But when the wild she so loves begins to disappear, Franny can no longer wander without a destination. She arrives in remote Greenland with one purpose: to find the world's last flock of Arctic terns and follow them on their final migration. She convinces Ennis Malone, captain of the Saghani, to take her onboard, winning over his salty, eccentric crew with promises that the birds she is tracking will lead them to fish. As the Saghani fights its way south, Franny's new shipmates begin to realize that the beguiling scientist in their midst is not who she seems. Battered by night terrors, accumulating a pile of letters to her husband, and dead set on following the terns at any cost, Franny is full of dark secrets. When the story of her past begins to unspool, Ennis and his crew must ask themselves what Franny is really running toward-and running from. Propelled by a narrator as fierce and fragile as the terns she is following, Migrations is a shatteringly beautiful ode to the wild places and creatures now threatened. But at its heart, it is about the lengths we will go, to the very edges of the world, for the people we love"--… (more)

Media reviews

Publisher's Weekly
Young adult novelist McConaghy (the Chronicles of Kaya series) makes her adult debut with the clunky chronicle of Franny Stone, a troubled woman who follows a flock of endangered Arctic terns on what is believed to be their final migration home. While McConaghy’s plot is engaging, her writing can
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be a heavy-handed distraction (“out flies my soul, sucked through my pores”). Lovers of ornithology and intense drama will find what they need in this uneven tale.
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User reviews

LibraryThing member StaffPicks
This inventive literary eco-themed novel opens with the highly complex protagonist Franny conducting scientific fieldwork on migratory birds in Greenland and seeking passage to Antarctica on a fishing vessel. It reads like an adventure memoir with a focus on nature writing and the climate crisis.
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If you love memorable characters, or a well-crafted reimagining of a literary classic (Moby Dick) with an unexpected plot twist, you will find all this and more in Migrations.
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LibraryThing member tangledthread
The story opens in Greenland where Franny Lynch is banding three arctic terns in order to follow their migration to the Antarctic. She then wanders into town with the hope of meeting up with a fishing vessel that will take her to follow that migration. While sitting in the pub, she sees a drunken
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man wander into the icy water, presumably to drown, so she rushes into the water to save him. It turns out he doesn't need to be saved, this is just his way of sobering up. And he is Ennis, the captain of the ship she is seeking.

The setting for this novel is the not too distant future, where most wild life, especially birds, have gone extinct. The terns are the last and Franny is set to find them. She sets up the fishing boat crew by promising them a catch from the near empty ocean by following the terns to their food source.

But Franny, and most of the other characters, are not quite what they seem. Through flashbacks the author reveals Franny's troubled past as she is orphaned in Ireland, sent to Australia to live with her grandmother, then back to Ireland as an adult where she meets Niall. Franny and Niall have a passion for wild animals, as well as a passion for one another. And these two passions drive the momentum of the book.

The book moves back and forth in time and place to reveal Franny's past and her motivations as an unreliable narrator. The author is very good at writing intense scenes. But she has a problem stitching those scenes together into a narrative that feels like whole cloth. Instead the story feels like tattered cloth where bits of imaginative detail about the dystopic world she has created are missing.
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LibraryThing member niaomiya
Oh, WOW. This book. Just stunning, gorgeous, heartbreaking, marvelous. I looooved it.

Franny is a wanderer by nature; she feels the pull of the ocean or some other call of nature and follows it without thought. Now she is following the migration path of the Arctic terns, convinced that this will be
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the final flock of Arctic terns making their last migration before they die and become an extinct species as a result of climate change caused by humans. She convinces Ennis, the captain of a fishing ship, to take her. As the ship and its crew make the long trek following the migratory path of the Arctic terns, Franny's past comes back to haunt her, endangering the crew and herself and the entire expedition.

Through flashbacks to various points in Franny's past, author Charlotte McConaghy slowly reveals the dark events that led Franny to where she is on this desperate journey. The bits and pieces that gradually come to light are devastating revelations -- horrifying, profoundly sad, nostalgic, absolutely heartbreaking. McConaghy has quite a skill in writing about the ship's traveling through violent storms; in these passages, the book is like an amazing adventure story. McConaghy also has quite a skill in writing the quiet passages that speak to the heart, that talk about family and love and figuring out where we belong.

I enjoyed "Migrations" immensely. It absolutely broke my heart and made me cry, but it also gave me hope. Brava, Charlotte McConaghy. What an amazing U.S. debut novel!
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LibraryThing member bookwren
Beautifully written and suspenseful, sad and hopeful, a bit unbelievable at times (surviving being immersed in Arctic waters!), but the story carried me along. I liked the characters and that goes a long way with me. I sincerely hope our world doesn't come to 80% of all wildlife becoming extinct!
LibraryThing member gypsysmom
This is a book that takes a while to grab you but once it does it hangs on tightly, much like a bird clinging to a branch during a windstorm. That's an apt metaphor because at the heart of this book is a story about a bird species, the Arctic tern, that has one of the longest migrations. Each year
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they migrate from the Arctic circle to the Antarctic. Much of their migration is over ocean and they have to find schools of fish to nourish themselves during this long flight. Sometimes they take a break to land on a ship on the ocean where they rest up for the next stage of their journey.

Franny Stone wants to follow the Arctic terns on their migration. She is afraid this might be the last time they survive to make the long trek. Climate change and habitat destruction has meant that many species of birds and animals have become extinct and many others are at-risk. The large schools of fish that the terns feed on are almost all gone as are the commercial fisherman. Franny has managed to geo-tag three terns in Greenland and now she needs to find a boat that will take her to follow the terns. She finds a commercial fishing boat captained by an Alaskan named Ennis Malone with a multicultural crew. She convinces Ennis to take her on because she promises the terns will find schools of fish for him to catch. It's rather a deal with the devil because Franny leanred from her husband, ecologist Niall, that overfishing was responsible for there being hardly any fish left in the ocean. Throughout the journey Franny writes to Niall and recalls her past; occasionally she refers to being in jail but we don't learn until near to the end why she was imprisoned. She met Niall in Galway, Ireland but she had lived part of her childhood with her paternal grandmother in Australia after her mother disappeared. She returned to Ireland mostly to search for her mother and her mother's family, taking a job as a cleaner at Galway University where she met Niall. They had rather a tempestuous marriage and Franny often disappeared for days to months at a time. She loves Niall but part of her feels the need to go away as well. Is this trip just one of those wanderings or is there more going on? If you are like me you will start to form an opinion before the denouement but you will need to keep reading (or listening as in my case).

I thought this book was beautifully written. One of the problems of listening to audiobooks is that it is almost impossible to linger over a well-turned phrase or a particularly lovely descritption. That aside this audiobook was a treat as the female narrator, Barrie Kreinik, did a fabulous job of speaking in the different accents for Franny and Niall and Ennis and the rest of the crew. High recommendation for this book.
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LibraryThing member streamsong
The world has changed.

The great extinctions are happening. Land species, including birds, mammals, and bugs go extinct daily. The oceans are almost empty of life.

As a child, Franny Stone befriended a small flock of crows. Now all the crows are gone.
Franny is determined to put radio monitors on some
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of the very last Arctic terns and follow what is perhaps their last migration to the Antarctic.

To do this, she needs to find a fishing boat whose captain will agree to follow the terns’ radio signals in exchange for knowing the locations of the fish schools the terns feed on during their immense journey.

It’s a devil’s bond; giving up some of the last fish in the ocean to follow the terns. But there may never be another chance.

Franny is a complicated and haunted character. We see her broken fragility as well as her strength and determination to follow the birds. But we only learn her back story slowly, piece by piece in flashbacks as the time jumps back and forth.

Beautifully written – I believe it will be one of my favorite books of the year.
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LibraryThing member Perednia
A beautiful, harrowing story of loss and belonging.
LibraryThing member GrandmaCootie
What an amazing book. In some ways, Migrations reads like a travel guide. Beautiful descriptions of nature and so many details about birds. Journeys to Greenland, the Irish coast, the Australian outback, and everywhere in between. Harsh climates and conditions. The peril of endangered species of
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animals all over the world. The role of the humans in the world in bringing about this danger.

And on that human side – Franny isn’t sure where she belongs, or that she deserves to belong anywhere. She loves deeply and forever, but has never been able to stay in one place to nurture that love. She’s obsessed with following the birds on their final migration, saving the birds, if they can even be saved. She’s suffered and lost so much, and as we continue the journey with her we start to suspect that she’s on a voyage with a secret purpose, and she’s not revealing the secret.

Migrations is beautifully written and an amazing debut novel by author Charlotte McConaghy. The words flow. The environment changes and you are in the midst of it, cold, tired, hurting, regretting. The characters are elusive and puzzling and entice you to read on.

The story is haunting, almost other-worldly, told in a time where animals are disappearing at a pace we can’t yet imagine. Or don’t want to acknowledge. Franny’s story is told through her current journey on the fishing boat, her letters, her past time with her husband, her childhood. And embedded in this is somehow a warring sense of hope and doom. Franny presents herself as a failure, destined to always fail, but her conviction is so strong you want to believe she will succeed in her quest for – for what?

Once I started Migrations: A Novel I couldn’t put it down. The characters were well-developed and engaging, and I felt as if the fate of the world at times hung in the balance. Thanks to Flatiron Books and NetGalley for providing an advance copy for my reading pleasure and honest review. This was a welcome and thoroughly enjoyable departure from the usual psychological thrillers or cozies. All opinions are my own. I recommend this book without hesitation.
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LibraryThing member Hccpsk
In Migrations, author Charlotte McConaghy gives us a not too distant future where climate change has extinguished most of the world’s animals. Franny Stone is trying to follow the last arctic terns as they migrate from the top of the earth to the bottom, but she needs a boat and captain to do
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it--and so her sea adventure begins. Clearly troubled, we begin to glimpse the moments of Franny’s life that have brought her to this point that McConaghy trickles into the narrative. Even with some glaring plot issues, Migrations manages to be timely, interesting and extremely readable.
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LibraryThing member Beamis12
Beautiful and heartbreaking. I wasn't ready for this book to end. Endings though is what we humans seem to excel at, as this book makes clear. The near future and with our disregard for climate change, our inaction, we have ended the lives and caused to be extinct 80% of lives creatures. There are
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no more elephants, tigers and lions gone, even crows are no more.

The last hope are the Arctic terns, who travel from the Arctic and back again. This may be their final migration and Franny travels to Greenland to follow their last flight. Franny though has private worries, secrets, she is running from just as she is traveling toward. She us fragile, brave and has suffered many losses. As she travels with the shipping vessel, Saghani, we learn her back story as well of those of the crew on the boat. Their are tender moments, sorrowful ones and beautiful descriptions of the Arctic.

The prose is gorgeous, the story haunting and important. It contains a warning, a message that is of the upmost importance. Can you imagine the world without these creatures that we have long taken for granted? This is where were heading if we don't act now.

ARC from Flatiron books.
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LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
Franny can't stay in one place, despite a husband who loves her and whom she loves. But she just can't stay still. And she needs to follow the last of the Arctic terns on their last migration. Not as part of a scientific study but because her mind tells her she has to. And she convinces the captain
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of a ship to make the journey.

This novel seems to be set in the near future because animals that are not really extinct yet are listed as such. The writing in beautiful, bordering on poetic at times. Franny is a lost soul, and this is a rather bittersweet novel. I did love reading about the terns, and their amazing migration from the Arctic to Antarctica and back each year. This is a thoughtful book, well worth reading or hearing.
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LibraryThing member janerawoof
Even after 70 pp. or so could not get into this one. It seemed to tell of the heroine's following the migration route of Arctic terns plus her backstory: another "migration" of sorts, which was pretty depressing and boring as far as I read.
LibraryThing member grandpahobo
The story itself is good, if a bit predictable. However, the telling of the story is exemplary. The writing is compelling and makes it difficult to put the book down.
LibraryThing member thewanderingjew
Migrations, Charlotte McConaghy author; Barrie Kreinik, narrator
This is alternately heartbreaking and uplifting, but which one is the more overpowering will be in the eyes of each reader. I found the book to be enlightening when considering the information on bird migration, coupled with the
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information on the extinction of certain species that was taking place at the same time. This novel takes place at a time, in the not too distant future, when fish and birds are disappearing at a disastrous rate of speed. Humans have abused the environment, and they will pay the price. They have overfished, overhunted, littered the landscape, befouled the oceans and ignored their behavioral effects on the environment. The strong have overpowered the weak and taken advantage of nature’s bounty, destroying its natural order.
Franny Lynch (Stone) wants to follow the last migration of the tern. Why she wants to do this is revealed, very slowly as the book proceeds, with bits and pieces of her memory from her past and her present. She has many issues to deal with as do many of the characters that fill the pages of this novel. It is not about perfect people or happy endings. It is about the harsh reality of life, about people who often react without thinking, causing chaos. Sometimes, the time line gets a little confusing, but the idea the story wants to impart, remains clear. We will reap, what we have sown. Can we improve? Can we reverse our destruction? Are we destroying our world with abandon, with our blind eyes, deaf ears and silent lips?
Franny and Niles Lynch are an unusual couple. Both love the natural world. Both are capable of different kinds of spontaneity. As the creatures of nature become extinct, they become increasingly disturbed. Franny loves the sea. She doesn’t like caging animals or birds or anything, including herself. Niles wants to preserve the natural order of things. Franny can be a wanderer, not tethered to any one place for that long, if she can help it. She leaves those she loves, she leaves sanctuaries to search for one thing, freedom. She wants all to have the same freedom. She does not believe in cages. She does not appreciate the kindness or teachings of others until years pass and she has time to reflect on her past. She often rushed to judgment, but was generally motivated by kindness and compassion, even when she was destructive.
Protecting all species is of utmost importance if humanity is to continue; they all act in concert to keep us alive and thriving. We are all valuable, regardless of our differences. Reading about the lives of the characters in this novel, of different species, and of the lives of other ordinary people that are trying to succeed even in the face of hardscrabble conditions, will lead the reader down a road to a future that could be dismal, but one that could also carry with it the hope of redemption. Although Franny sleepwalks, causing unknown destruction, or in some cases saving some from captivity, we, too, are all guilty of sleepwalking through our own lives, relying on chance to save us, refusing to face the reality of how our behavior is impacting the planet, the natural predators and the food chain that exists in nature to support life and balance our ecosystems. We must work together to succeed.
The book raises many questions that are left unanswered. Are the sins of the father truly visited upon the child? Are our sins sometimes unintentional? Are we able to forgive? When is an accident simply that, an accident? Was there really a crime of murder? When is self defense appropriate? When is it okay to break a rule? When will women have the right to defend themselves against predatory men? The natural world and the human world contain many paradoxes that are similar and impact our judgment. Is it possible to adapt to changes in the natural world and thus survive? Will we learn to protect our environment because the long term effects of neglect could end life? Will we learn to accept all, regardless of individual differences, or will we simply continue to take what we want, and let sleeping dogs lie? If so, what will our future be like?
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LibraryThing member susan.h.schofield
A very good debut. Charlotte McConaghy's debut novel is beautifully written. I did have a hard time getting into at first - I was probably a 1/3 of the way through before it really grabbed me. Franny is a difficult character to understand and like especially with the way the book jumps around with
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the timeline. But it's so well written and the story did end up holding my interest. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the digital ARC.
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LibraryThing member LindaLoretz
Franny Stone Lynch is a futuristic main character searching for her ancestry and struggling with her background. Her personal story runs parallel to her desire to follow the almost extinct Arctic terns from Greenland to Antarctica. She employs ornithological knowledge and a mercurial, sometimes
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volatile personality to gain access to a fishing boat among career fishers. Ennis Malone, captain of the Saghani (Inuit for raven), reluctantly takes Franny aboard, thinking that tracking the birds will help his crew find more herring.
McConaghy conveys several themes in addition to the most obvious one, the results of climate change, the extinction of animals, and human interference with nature. We are encouraged to wonder about migration patterns of the Arctic tern and possibly all birds. Then again, the migration of Franny and her ancestors—from Ireland to Australia and back again- also leaves the reader pondering why humans move. I think the concept of crime and the inherent characteristics of those with criminal backgrounds are integral to the story. Some of the questions in my mind as reading were:
Should it be criminal to catch fish as their numbers deplete? What about killing other animals for human consumption?
Is there a difference between the value of human lives and the lives of other creatures?
Are human brains genuinely superior to other living beings?
Do humans possess the strong instincts that are obvious in other species?
How does grief affect the human brain?
I am not sure this a cautionary tale or a political statement, but it was a worthwhile read—different, refreshing, and thought-provoking to the level of mind rattling.
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LibraryThing member books-n-pickles
Enjoyed as much as I expected (hooray!) but nothing totally groundbreaking. Loved the characters and the nonlinear narrative, and I thought the writing was well-done, but the world of the book didn't feel that much different from our current reality. With mass extinctions of even common animals, I
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would expect more of an impact on other aspects of the environment--gleaming new sea walls, or extreme weather normalized, for example--but instead fishermen on their last financial legs can eat beef and judge our protagonist's vegetarianism as a political statement. That said, I did like how near-future and realistic this felt. It's harder to dismiss the all-too-possible world as sci fi that way.
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LibraryThing member krau0098
Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone book that I borrowed through Kindle Unlimited to read.

Story (4/5): The story follows Franny Stone as she desperately tries to follow the migration of Arctic terns. The story bounces between various points in her past and her current adventure. This was very
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well done and as the story unravels we find out there’s a lot more to Fanny’s past than we could have ever guessed. I loved the way the story plays out and how it transforms from something that seems fairly straight-forward to a much darker and complex story. It was very well done and very engaging. There are heavy environmentalism themes as well as themes of dealing with grief and feelings of guilt.

Characters (4/5): The characters are complex and well done but also feel a bit distanced from the reader. Franny is distanced from both reality and herself (for various reasons that unfold throughout the story) so I think this is part of why she feels a bit apart from the reader. All of the characters in here have dark and painful pasts and it makes for a very griping, if not always comfortable, read. I enjoyed them and the characters were a big part of what drove this story forward.

Setting (4/5): This is set in the near future where many wild animals have gone extinct. While this is never explicitly described, you get a feel for the things that are happening as you see the world through Franny’s past and current eyes. Most of the book takes place on a fishing boat and I loved the chilly atmospheric setting of Greenland where we start. I also really enjoyed the storm tossed ocean journey as we continue the trek south with Franny. It was all very well described and really came alive for the reader.

Writing Style (4/5): This is well written, flows at a good pace and is engaging. I didn’t have any problems breezing through this book. I enjoyed how we jump from Franny’s present to various points in her past. Although, at times the jumps into her past weren’t very linear and could be a bit disorienting and jarring. Still, overall I really enjoyed it. I loved the parallels of the terns’ migration and Franny’s journey through her own life. I also love how the survival of these animals is reflected in the struggles of our characters.

My Summary (4/5): Overall I am glad I read this, it was different from what I would normally read but engaging and thought-provoking. I love that it touches on environmentalism but also wraps this around the story of Franny’s life and her journey through it. There is plenty of adventure and the book moves at a good clip. I would definitely recommend, this is a thought-provoking story and an engaging diversion.
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LibraryThing member EBT1002
Set at some unspecified point in the future, this beautiful novel paints a picture of what our future could look like. Specifically, McConaghy starts with the question "what would the world be like if, no, *when* most wild species are extinct?" This is not a gory post-apocalyptic scenario. Rather,
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the author leans into what is perhaps more likely: a gradual but no less catastrophic extermination of all wild animals (mammals, birds, fish, everything) due to global warming, habitat loss, pollution, and food source scarcity. Set against this backdrop is a story of love, guilt, human and animal migration and transformation, and the search for redemption.

Franny Lynch is a bird enthusiast who is determined to follow the Arctic Terns on what she expects will be their last migration to Antarctica. These birds migrate further than any other but their food source is on the verge of extinction; the likelihood of them surviving this migration cycle, much less any further into the future seems miniscule. Franny fenagles passage on a fishing boat, promising the captain and crew that the three terns she has tagged and can follow on her laptop will lead them to fish. As they journey south in search of "the golden catch," that large catch that will ease the financial strain experienced by those who rely on fish for a living, the narrative moves back and forth in time and place. We meet Franny's husband, an ornithologist who ignited Franny's passion for the terns while inadvertently shattering her complicated psychological defenses. We also meet the captain and crew of the boat and the few family members who populated Franny's past. Every character is uniquely and viscerally and honestly wrought. The story of the terns is, of course, all our story: the determination to survive, the urge to stay true to what is in our particular nature, and the miracle that we are, individually and collectively.

Heartbreaking and beautiful, this is a novel that rises above other novels of our dark and dismal future. It is terrifying and devastating in its plausibility, perhaps its inevitability. But it still made me glad to be alive on this Earth and even a bit glad to be human.
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LibraryThing member flourgirl49
This was an interesting and very worthwhile story to be told, but the main character - Franny - really rubbed me the wrong way. Throughout, I felt that she was terribly selfish and more than a little unbalanced. It is only near the very end of the book that one understands her psyche and thus her
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actions, and although it doesn't thoroughly redeem her and her quest in my opinion, it did help me to give her a little slack. There is some very lyrical writing here, but I think the portrayal of Franny subtracts from the overall message. Plus, the author's way of bouncing back and forth in the timeframes to tell Franny's story could be confusing. Overall, contrary to the glowing reviews this book has received, I'm kind of lukewarm on it.
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LibraryThing member brenzi
Set in the very near future where the climate has been decimated resulting in the gradual loss of most animals and birds, main character Franny Stone Lynch will remain with me for a long time. She is trying to follow the last of the Arctic Terns on what may well be their final journey. Absolutely
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beautiful in both the writing and the depiction of what our world may evolve into. Franny's personal story is breathtaking and her journey haunting. Could this be my book of the year? I thought I'd already read it (Driftless comes to mind) but who knows. This one was certainly wonderful.
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LibraryThing member viviennestrauss
Possibly the best book I've read this year! This and McConaghy's most recent book, Once There Were Wolves both blew me away.
LibraryThing member mjspear
Not my cup of tea. Spoiler alert: don't read on if you don't want to know what happens. Franny is, I guess, what one would call a "free spirit" but she, in effect, kills her husband, takes a reckless sea voyage during which she flirts with the fellow sailors, steals, knives someone, and punishes
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her mother-in-law. Once the reader learns her full backstory, her behavior becomes more understandable --and defensible-- but through most of the book she appears to behave like a wayward, strong-minded brat. Beautifully written and a call to protect wildlife, esp. birds. But the main character put me off.
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LibraryThing member banjo123
Beautiful writing, in this book about environmental disaster, loss grief and guilt. Set in the future, most species facing extinction; our narrator, Franny Stone, seeks to explore the migration of the last of the Arctic Terns, who migrate from pole to pole.
LibraryThing member lauralkeet
Franny Stone cares deeply about conservation and the state of our planet, and wrangles her way onto a fishing vessel as a means of studying the arctic tern’s migration path. But what appears to be a scientific endeavor soon shows signs of something very different. Franny’s internal monologue
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hints at tragedy in her past, which is gradually revealed through flashback segments set at specific points in her life. These puzzle pieces slowly come together, revealing a woman damaged by multiple traumas, but Franny’s behavior repeatedly keeps one crucial piece just beyond our grasp. The long-awaited reveal brought an entirely new perspective to Franny’s sea journey and the subsequent epilogue was quite moving.

The beauty of this novel is in the trail of breadcrumbs dropped in the flashbacks, coupled with Franny’s unreliable narration. I was quickly hooked, and even though I questioned a couple of plot elements that seemed a bit forced, I couldn’t put this book down.
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Dublin Literary Award (Longlist — 2022)
Queensland Literary Awards (Finalist — Fiction — 2021)
The Indie Book Award (Longlist — Fiction — 2021)
All Connecticut Reads (Shortlist — 2022)


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