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 loves begins to disappear, Franny can no longer wander without a destination.
... beautifully haunting ... Spanning oceans and decades, Franny's physical and emotional journeys are at times devastating and, at others, surprisingly, undeniably hopeful. Through flashbacks to Franny's childhood in Ireland, her intense romance and sudden elopement with Niall, the search for her mother (missing since childhood) and her bleak years in prison for a crime she does not remember, McConaghy carefully peels back the layers of her life and then meticulously weaves them together again, giving greater context and intensity to Franny's current pilgrimage to the Antarctic Circle ... McConaghy paints a feverish, evocative picture of our crumbling world balance. Incorporating science and conservancy research, McConaghy doesn't oversimplify the crisis and, despite its vastness, it never overpowers Franny's own development. Even the obvious judgment of humanity's guilt in the extinction crisis receives nuanced revelation as conservationist Franny discovers an unlikely connection with fisherman Ennis ... Despite the dark nature of the story, McConaghy's novel manages to capture moments of lightness that keep hope and wonder in beauty alive for both her characters and readers. Brimming with stunning imagery and raw emotion, Migrations is the incredible story of personal redemption, self-forgiveness and hope for the future in the face of a world on the brink of collapse.
... this is a climate novel, a species of fiction that is too-little-loved (perhaps because it’s too frequently patronizing) but by no means endangered in 2020. And yet this is a unique specimen: If worry is the staple emotion that most climate fiction evokes in its readers, Migrations — the novelistic equivalent of an energizing cold plunge — flutters off into more expansive territory ... McConaghy has a gift for sketching out enveloping, memorable characters using only the smallest of strokes, which makes Franny’s time with the crew of the Saghani the novel’s strongest and most vibrant thread ... References to Moby Dick offer up Migrations as a kind of bookend to that early American industrial-era parable. What better way to demonstrate the logical endpoint of mankind’s rapaciousness than to cast out little reminders of Ahab’s crew spearing and stripping scores of whales for profit and pleasure? ... McConaghy can’t stop heaping on steaming piles of sadness, as if without an overstuffed grab-bag of tragedy a character has no basis for her pain ... This is a novel that doles out heartbreaking events as twists (like the will-she-won’t-she of her planned suicide), but Migrations doesn’t need them; it has so much else to offer ... The specter of the wilderness haunts this novel ... McConaghy has an eye for the webs of connectivity that humans have ditched in favor of their own supposed development, and Migrations, rather than struggle to convince readers of some plan of environmental action, instead puts humans in their place.
... visceral and haunting ... As well as a work of first-rate climate fiction, Migrations is also a clever reimagining of Moby-Dick, that foundational text of humankind vs. nature, of hubris vs. humility ... Sea yarns that serve as voyages of self-discovery have been the exclusive literary domain of men for far too long, and McConaghy deserves extra credit for sounding the oceanic depths of the female soul ... Once the ship is in motion, there are some delightful flashes of camaraderie among the crew, as Franny is shown the ropes — and knots — of life on a purse seiner, pitched and pestered by North Atlantic storms. These workaday details are expertly rendered ... Occasionally McConaghy reaches back to traumatic episodes in Franny’s troubled past, unspooling the details of her life with admirable artistry ... is not without flaws ... As the crew nears their destination, the plot gets jerky, at times leaning upon melodrama, and the narrative’s previous vagueness about this dystopian world feels flimsy and concocted. At one point, fishing is banned worldwide by a nameless governmental body; at another, Franny is pursued by a nameless sea police force. Also, the notion that anyone in Newfoundland is ever going to hold up a sign that says 'Justice for fish, death to fishermen,' even after the global collapse of the world’s sea life, is sheer fantasy ... Still, this novel’s prose soars with its transporting descriptions of the planet’s landscapes and their dwindling inhabitants, and contains many wonderful meditations on our responsibilities to our earthly housemates ... a nervy and well-crafted novel, one that lingers long after its voyage is over. It’s a story about our mingling sorrows, both personal and global, and the survivor’s guilt that will be left in their wake.