November 11, 2020 8:36 AM EST

The first sentences of Charlotte McConaghy’s devastating adult debut make a bleak introduction to a world that does not feel far removed from our own: “The animals are dying. Soon we will be alone here.” In Migrations, there are no more big cats, reptiles or wolves. The sole remaining flock of Arctic terns, which have the longest migration of any animal on the planet, is about to make its very last descent from the Arctic to the Antarctic. At the center of this story is Franny Stone, a bird lover with a messy past who is determined to follow the terns. She talks her way onto a boat she has no business being on, and from there McConaghy slowly unveils her narrator’s obsession with the terns. With an urgent voice and vivid descriptions of nature, McConaghy crafts a gutting portrait of a woman who is just as broken as the world she lives in.

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