by Charlotte McConaghy
In a world robbed of rainforests and birdsong, ornithologist Franny Stone embarks to track the final migration of the Arctic terns, known for their unmatched resilience as the birds with the longest migration period – and also as the last birds on Earth. Prepared for the harsh venture to the northernmost part of the globe, Franny seeks out a fishing vessel to take her on her journey, promising that with the terns they will find an abundant, and increasingly rare, supply of herring. She somehow finds her place within the jigsaw crew onboard the Saghani, led by an ill-tempered captain who begrudgingly allows Franny to tag along, despite her lack of sea legs and know-how. What the crew does not know is that upon arrival at the Arctic, Franny plans to die, this trip being her swan song to a life coloured by loss. As Migrations progresses, readers learn how Franny came to track the terns, inspired by her absent environmentalist husband and seeking to fill the void left in childhood, when Franny’s mother disappeared.
Charlotte McConaghy’s Migrations drew me in immediately with its vivid description of a world without wildlife. McConaghy paints this world as a shell of what it used to be, all but barren, and this is in turn reflected in her characters. This book asks difficult questions, challenging the reader to consider what a world without wildlife looks like – and beyond this, questioning how far someone might go to preserve even a whisper of how life once was. Each character, even those who make only a minor appearance, is illustrated with a depth often emerging from their own form of loss. At the same time, this is a story of survivors, of resilience: from the unyielding terns, to the enigmatic Captain Ennis Malone, to Franny herself, and offers a fulfilling read to anyone looking to experience the full spectrum of emotion through one written work. This book is heart-wrenching, evocative and exquisitely written: both a love letter and a goodbye.