if your life suddenly seemed out of your control and you were forced to
leave your work and loved ones behind? After five years in Nigeria as a
climate scientist, Flannery's grant money has run out, and she must
return to Austin, Texas, not knowing where or when she'll see her
fiance, Kunle, again.
What Flannery first noticed when she arrived in Nigeria were the towering palm trees. It was like walking off the airplane into a land of giants. The next morning, Flannery, barefoot, crossed her new front yard and stood beneath one of the sturdy palms, her shoulder blades pressing into the grooved trunk. She tilted her chin to look up at the canopy when, suddenly, the tree shook its head at her. A flock of birds swept from the branches, crackling the leaves.—Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht (HarperCollins / Harper Perennial, 2015, p. 1)
- Setting: modern times; Nigeria and Austin, Texas
- Circumstances: When the funding for her work dries up, Flannery is forced to leave Africa. Back home in Texas, she discovers that many of her old college friends are also struggling with the realities of life. Later she must decide to stay in the United States or return to Nigeria.
- Characters: Flannery, a climate scientist; Kunle, her fiance; Molly, her sister, who is suffering from the early signs of Huntington's disease; various college friends; various people in Africa
- Genre: literary fiction; adult coming of age
- Topic & plot points: making an adult life, family, friendships, mental health, marriage, economic independence, first world/third world
- Major theme: Being in limbo: Flannery is between worlds; one friend is between depression and normalcy; her sister is between health and sickness; others are between rich and poor and marriage and divorce
- Miscellaneous: The story is told from different view points and captures the nature of thirty-somethings in the modern world; the novel is an Indie Next pick for February
- The author: Specht lived in Africa under a Fulbright grant and writes from personal experience, although Migratory Animals is fiction. She wrote about her relationship with a Nigerian man in a New York Times "Modern Love" piece.
- Recommendations: I haven't finished the book but can recommend it to anyone who was, is, or will be in their thirties. In all seriousness, Mary Helen Specht has written an introspective and provocative novel that explores a time of change and growth for Flannery and her friends. Migratory Animals is for anyone who has struggled with the realities of adulthood.