When Flannery, a young scientist, is forced to return to Austin after five years of research in Nigeria, she becomes torn between her two homes. Having left behind her loving fiancé without knowing when she will return, Flannery 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: 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, all of her friends have 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.
Mary Helen Specht’s work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times and Colorado Review. A winner of the Richard Yates Short Story Award, among other prizes, she is a former Fulbright Scholar to Nigeria and Dobie-Paisano Writing Fellow. She earned an MFA in fiction from Emerson College and now teaches creative writing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. Golden Lines
On the night before her flight, Kunle took her in search of fresh palm wine. (3)
Alyce closed her eyes. "And there are still boxes to unpack. Food to buy. Dishes to wash." Breaths to breathe, she thought. "Have you noticed how we buy food and then eat it, and then have to buy more." (13)
Their parents never told Molly to be a tough cookie. They indulged and protected her and stroked her hair at night because they already knew. (39)
And so she started. (58)
Molly was dying, and it seemed she was the last to know. (81)
"I hear another white person convinced they're going to save Africa from itself." (189)
The two women looked at each other. Nothing shocked Alyce anymore. She sipped and then nodded. (172)
Alyce felt guilty standing there in the water, holding the hand of her best friend's sister as if she were about to baptize her in the creek. Who had betrayed whom? How was this supposed to go? Red Rover, Red Rover, why don't you come over? (248)
I choose my family from now on. (259)
"You will be brave. You will be lucky. You will be loved. You will feel joy." (288)
What I Liked
Flannery - I liked Flannery's independence. She was almost independent in what some would say was selfish...but isn't that at least in part of what independence is?
Specht's narrative description of Alyce's severe depression...whoa...spot on.
The irony of Alyce's tapestry...made to give her sons something to remember her by...but a healing journey in the end.
A glimpse into Nigerian geography, culture, and history.
The strength in both Molly and Alyce that blooms when they are together.
Kunle - he was the only male character that I liked...I especially appreciated the way he called BS on Flannery if it needed to be called. Their relationship seemed real.
What I Didn't Like
Molly's parents...seriously? Who makes that kind of decision? And Brandon? How do you keep that kind of info from someone? Parents maybe...but a husband?
Most of the male characters...I don't know; they just seemed sortof weak. Is it not possible to have strong female characters and male characters at the same time? Does one have to be weak so the other can be strong? Santiago was my least favorite.
The End - I felt like Migratory Birds just stopped. Just ended. I've never been one for nicely wrapped packages, but gracious, there was so much more to be said.
The technicality of Flan and Brandon's research. The content was so out of my area that I found myself having to skim some of science. I just couldn't follow.
The huge jump in time from Molly's pregnancy to the baby's birth...everything had been so detailed up to that point.
Our community had its first Mardi Gras Parade today.
The shelter decided to create a float (not a big fancy one, mind you)...but one that would showcase our love for animals and our commitment to the community as well as a show of our stewardship with the community's resources.
Parades are pretty complicated when you're a rescue organization.
Or, maybe I just over-analyze everything.
My amazing kid...who hangs out with me a lot dressed up as a Mardi Gras cat.
As you can imagine, the real cats in the shelter were in no way even considering riding a float.
I couldn't even get our resident office cat to wear some beads...or a mask...or anything for that matter.
My kid corralled some of her BFFs from school to dress up with her.
Here's our little crew of "pups" and "kitties."
This is a great bunch of kids by the way.
One of our other board members has a much younger daughter who wanted to dress up and ride the float as well.
My kid helped her with her make-up.
Have I mentioned I have a great kid?
Fee Fee was my co-pilot today on the float. She's a little skittish, our Feefers, but she weathered the parade well.
We were going to walk behind the float...but those plans changed when the fire truck lined up behind us and a billion jillion people lined up along the sides of the streets...jumping out to get beads.
These two had a special day out...but were glad to get back in the safety of my car and head back to their cots at the shelter and a good supper...completed with a special treat.
There's the chewing, biting, pooping, peeing, crying, yelping...
and then, when you think you just can't take it anymore,
"I didn't mean to."
And, then, there's that smell...puppy smell is a very distinct smell...I can't even compare it to anything else. If you're a dog lover, you're smiling right now because you know exactly what I'm talking about.
The hugs, kisses, tail wagging, happy to see you, loving, playing, cutie patootieying...
Yep, it's worth it.
Especially when that pup is a foster and you're trying to prepare her for her forever home.
there is always another one...or two...that need you as well.
No matter how distraught we all were about Tebow, the shelter is still full of others that need us.
And, not just need us...but depend upon us.
They don't have time for us to grieve.
They trust us and have learned to look to us for comfort, love, reinforcement, redirection, guidance, walks, food, comfort, a kind word or pat, a treat...everything.
No matter how bad I have felt...how much, at times, I have wanted to walk away...
A lot of people are afraid of spending time at an animal shelter because of all the emotions involved...but honestly, you just don't have time to waller as my grandmother would have said.
You have to tighten your belt and keep moving.
This one needs me now:
Brittany came into the shelter one afternoon...dehydrated. Very young...and taken away from her mommy way too soon.
We gave her water from a dropper and she perked up slowly.
At 4 pm though, I couldn't leave her there.
Would she make it from 4 p.m. to 7 a.m. the next morning.
I wasn't sure, but I wasn't about to test it.
After a quick trip to PetSense...for the basics...
I put my best foster assistant on the job.
Ed came home and Reagan asked, "Are we going to tell him?"
Ed said, "Tell him what?"
Brittany was only supposed to stay one night, but she's almost been here 2 weeks :P
Ed: "Why are you doing this to me?"
I was thinking the same thing after being up every 2-3 hours for the first 3 days we kept dear Brittany.
Good thing she's really cute ;)
We are big dog people, so we are a little unsure what to do with little dogs besides love them and help them survive.