Cover image for Migratory animals : a novel
Migratory animals : a novel
Specht, Mary Helen.
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Publication Information:
New York : Harper Perennial, [2015]
Physical Description:
294 pages : portrait ; 21 cm
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Winner of the Texas Institute of Letters Award and the Writer's League of Texas Fiction Award

A February 2015 Indie Next Selection

A January Apple iBook Selection

An Austin American-Statesman Selects Book

A powerful debut novel about a group of 30-somethings struggling for connection and belonging, Migratory Animals centers on a protagonist who finds herself torn between love and duty.

When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin from five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes split between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiancé without knowing when she can return, Flan learns that her sister, Molly, has begun to show signs of the genetic disease that slowly killed their mother.

As their close-knit circle of friends struggles with Molly's diagnosis, Flannery must grapple with what her future will hold: an ambitious life of love and the pursuit of scientific discovery in West Africa, or the pull of a life surrounded by old friends, the comfort of an old flame, family obligations, and the home she's always known. But she is not the only one wrestling with uncertainty. Since their college days, each of her friends has faced unexpected challenges that make them reevaluate the lives they'd always planned for themselves.

A mesmerizing debut from an exciting young writer, Migratory Animals is a moving, thought-provoking novel, told from shifting viewpoints, about the meaning of home and what we owe each other--and ourselves.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Specht's debut follows a group of college friends over a decade after their graduation, as they realize their lives have not turned out quite as they had hoped. Flannery, a scientist trying to reverse climate change in Nigeria, is forced to return home to Austin, Texas, after her funding dries up. She reluctantly leaves behind her Nigerian fiancé, who plans to join her as soon as he can get a visa. Once in Austin, Flannery feels gutted when she learns that her younger sister, Molly, has inherited Huntington's, the disease that killed their mother. Molly, in turn, is devastated when she realizes her loved ones, including her husband, noticed the symptoms she has been exhibiting before she did and said nothing. Flannery's best friend, Alyce, is deeply depressed and in the process of splitting up with her husband, while Flannery's college flame, Santiago, is still carrying a torch for her. Specht offers an unflinching look at the death of youthful dreams in the face of inevitable reality, while still maintaining a glimmer of hope for her struggling characters.--Huntley, Kristine Copyright 2015 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Specht's vivid debut probes the nature of family, the notion of home, and the tender burdens of both. After her mother dies of Huntington's disease, Flannery evades the suffocating pain of her family in Texas for work as a climate scientist in Nigeria. When funding issues force her to return to the U.S., she leaves behind her Nigerian fiancé, Kunle, and the only place she ever felt at home. Back in Texas, her sister Molly is showing early symptoms of the disease that claimed their mother. The sisters' close-knit group of friends struggle to accept the reality of Molly's diagnosis amid their own challenges: Flannery's best friend Alyce ponders suicide, and Flannery's ex-boyfriend Santiago, still in love with her, teeters on the verge of financial collapse. Unable to cope with her pain and guilt, Flannery avoids her sister. As the months pass and her funding issues remain unresolved, she begins to question returning to West Africa at all. Only after looking at her late mother's journal, and facing a few other surprises, can Flannery decide where she truly belongs. Though the narrative momentum falters mid-book, Specht's distinctive prose-rich with sharp observations, nimble language, and lyrical imagery-makes the novel a quirky and memorable read. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.