Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy: A Book Review

by Isabella Hird

Migrations, by Charlotte McConaghy, is a love letter of sorts to a loved one, oneself, and the Earth. A beautiful, flighty, and farfetched book, Migrations seeks to define the complexities of connections. Set in a dystopic near-future time, where the Earth has been environmentally devastated and many animal species have disappeared, Franny Stone undertakes a journey spanning from the past and present, looking forward to a more hopeful future. Migrations flits between Franny’s time on the boat, her childhood in Ireland, teenage years in Australia, moments within her unlikely and questionable marriage, a brief stint in prison, and even a period on a nature preserve. The book follows Franny’s journey on a fishing boat tracking near-extinct Arctic Terns from Greenland to Canada to Antarctica. This physical journey also leads to an exploration in self-reflection and open-mindedness. While Franny can be ignorant to others’ struggles at times, she, herself, is not without them. Her past, riddled with sadness, informs many of her own close-minded beliefs. Slowly, Franny and her misfit companions on the fishing boat grow to learn that there are multifaceted sides informing everyone’s story. 

As Franny follows the last of the Arctic Terns from Greenland to Antarctica, various understandings of connections are explored. The writing is both moving and palpable, providing the reader with the sense that they, too, are alongside Franny watching, feeling, and experiencing everyday moments made to feel intimate. From the opening pages providing a breathtaking description of the moment Franny tags one of the birds, the reader is taken for a wild ride and made to feel numerous emotions ranging from melancholy to stress, sadness to euphoria. 

One might ask: how is a book that centers around following migrating birds on a run-down fishing boat, able to pack an emotional punch, explore complex nuances of human society and captivate the reader? Well, this is largely due to a plot that reads at breakneck speed. With numerous too-good-to-be-true miracles or unbelievably horrid stroke of luck moments, McConaghy provides the audience with very little down time between these moments. In fact, at times, Franny’s luck and the events in the book seem to fluctuate between two polar extremes. The plot feels as though the reader is given just enough time to catch their breath, bracing themselves on their way up the rollercoaster tracks, before they are dropped violently again—at times unsuspectingly. While this book is never boring, it can be unbelievable. One of the flaws of the book is the unreliability of Franny as a narrator. However, in order to enjoy the book, readers must embrace all the crazy moments.

Overall, the poetic and beautiful prose, as well as the emotional connection one feels with the characters makes this book a worthwhile read. With all the action, it is one that is incomparable to anything you will have ever read. If you are a Goodreads fanatic (like I am) you may struggle with how to rate this book. While it was not my all-time favorite, this easy-reading and emotionally charged text does have a very special place on my bookshelf.

My rating: 4.5/5

Visual courtesy of The Wanderer Online Visual Editor Gracie Safranovich.