Flatiron: Macmillan. Aug. 2020. 272p. ISBN 9781250204028. $26.99. F
In her first adult literary fiction and her first U.S. publication, Australian author McConaghy offers a story of nature on the verge of collapse even as a young woman struggles with her past. As the novel opens, Franny Stone travels to Greenland so she can follow the world’s last flock of Arctic terns on its final migration, talking her way onto a fishing vessel trolling for perhaps its last catch. Franny is forever on the move, suffering from perpetually fractured relationships and a sense of not belonging; she’s a wanderer, like her Irish mother, who eventually left her to be raised by her paternal grandmother in faraway Australia, with her relationship with her absent ornithologist husband creating an edgy undercurrent throughout. The slow revelation of a tragedy for which Franny feels responsible adds a thrillerlike dimension to an already involving narrative made stronger by the absence of time markers; it could be taking place in two years or 20 years, but it could just as well be happening today.
VERDICT A consummate blend of issue and portrait, warning and affirmation, this heartbreaking, lushly written work is highly recommended.
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