Book review: Migrations


by Charlotte McConaghy
Narrated by
Barrie Kreinik
Flatiron Books/Macmillan
Macmillan Audio
US release date 8/4/2020
272 pages
Literary fiction


Buy the book

This year, I listened to a few Book Expo America Zoom sessions (I would not have been able to participate if it had been the usual BEA in New York – the sessions are still available on their Facebook page).
One of the books highlighted was Migrations, and it sounded really good. So I was delighted that it was a title available on (check for ways to get free audiobooks and support independent bookstores – excellent app!).

Besides reading, I love birding, so the story grabbed me right away, especially thanks to its gorgeous descriptions.

It is never precisely specified when the story takes place, but it is somewhat in the not too far future (though I hope I’m very wrong): because of global warming and all its consequences, birds are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Franny, from Galway, Ireland, knows that it’s probably the last time the Arctic Terns are migrating, so she decided to follow and accompany them on their last journey.

Now, do you know about the Arctic Tern? First of all, it is a beautiful bird.

Arctic Tern

By Jamumiwa – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

But most importantly for our story, it is one of the birds which travel the most for migration. According to a recent study, every year, an Arctic Tern travels 44,100 miles on average. And as they live about thirty years, they travel about 1.5 million miles during their lifetime, that is, more than three times an Earth-Moon round-trip! 


By Andreas Trepte – Own work, Handbook of the Birds of the World, Volume 11 (ISBN 978-84-96553-06-4) or earlier, CC BY-SA 2.5, ————————————— red: breeding, blue: winter, green: migration

Franny goes to Greenland, where the bird starts its migration, and manages to convince Captain Ennis Malone to accept her on his shipping boat The Saghani. His crew has had a hard time finding fish, also because of global warming and all we have done to our planet, but Franny is a scientist and knows that the Arctic Tern adjusts its route to where they can find fish to eat. So that should work, right?

Things get complicated. Just as our physical world, Fanny and each member of the crew are broken people with many issues.
The book goes back and forth between the journey and Franny’s past, and letters she writes every day to her husband, even though she never mailed them.

I loved the building up of the suspense based on the gradual revealing of who Franny is and what she’s been through.
The author reached an amazing balance between the beauty of the natural world and the dramas encountered by the characters and the animal world.

Migrations is both a heart-wrenching (at the level of the characters and of the natural word) and gorgeous hymn to animals and places now threatened because of human activity. It is also about people and relationships, our weaknesses and frailties, and what we do with them.

Audio performance:

The narrator’s tone was perfect to capture this duality, and she so grabbed my attention that I kept looking for more cleaning to do around the house so I could keep listening! (Yes, I only listen to audiobooks when I’m busy with chores).

I was dreading the end (you will easily see why when you kind of start understanding what’s going on), but got a nice surprise with a possible redemption, though how you interpret the last pages may depend on your mood at the time. Brilliant conclusion!

I read that this is the first literary novel by this author, who has written several scifi novels before. I can see that, and I’m totally looking forward to more books by her. Definitely another great Australian author to love!

VERDICT: Both beautiful and heart-wrenching. And of course, a must for all birders.

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Any other great novel focusing on global warming?

In full compliance with FTC Guidelines, I received this audiobook free of charge for review through I was in no way compensated for this post as a reviewer, and the thoughts are my own.


14 thoughts on “Book review: Migrations

  1. I thought this was a brilliant book, one of the best I’ve read this year. I had no idea you were a birder; I’m just learning about birds myself. Thank you for sharing the photo of the bird. It makes the story even more poignant.


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  4. I’ve just started this book, but have now realised that it was published with a different title and cover in Australia to the US. I like your cover better, but prefer our title ‘The Last Migration’.
    I met Charlotte in August – she is lovely, softly spoken, and her face has been in my mind as I read Franny, not that I think this is biographical in any way, it’s just how my mind works!
    Glad you enjoyed the book.


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  6. Wow, this sounds great. You’re right, Arctic Tern is a beautiful bird. Some day, I’d like to own an illustrated book about all the birds of the world, their nesting habits and maps of their migration patterns. 🙂 I do find a bit of discomfort with climate-related books, because they remind me of global warming and how much we stand to lose and there’s not much we can do as a whole to reverse the issues.


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