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. (publisher)
About the author:
Mary Helen Specht‘s work has appeared in numerous publications, including the New York Times and Bookslut. 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 a MFA in creative writing from Emerson College and now teaches creative writing at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas.
Praise for Mary Helen Specht and MIGRATORY ANIMALS
“A finely wrought first novel. . . . Specht weaves fascinating details on snowflakes, weaving, birding, genetics and engineering, plus a spot-on-portrait of Austin.”
“Specht’s vivid debut probes the nature of family, the notion of home, and the tender burdens of both. . . . Specht’s distinctive prose — rich with sharp observations, nimble language, and lyrical imagery — makes the novel a quirky and memorable read.”
— Publishers Weekly
“An ambitious, highly accomplished debut novel. . . . Specht moves among a deep cast of characters and corresponding perspectives with absolute mastery. This is the best kind of novel, one that’s filled with knowledge–about America, Africa, climate change, weaving, and snow, just to name a few of the core concerns of this fine book. But most important, and impressive, is Specht’s sure handling of the interior life, and the ways in which we help to make or break those around us.”
— Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk
“A novel of tremendous scope and insight that succeeds both as an exploration of larger global concerns and an acute examination of the most intimate parts of our lives. Mary Helen Specht is a terrific writer — passionate and generous, wry and insightful — and Migratory Animals is a wonderful and very moving debut.”
— Molly Antopol, author of The UnAmericans
“Mary Helen Specht’s lyrical novel reminds me of the work of both Claire Messud and Barbara Kingsolver. Migratory Animals is a luminous debut about a group of young friends finding their place in the world. Rich with love and heartbreak, it’s the book I’ll be wanting to share with all my friends.”
— Amanda Eyre Ward, author of How To Be Lost
“This emotionally nuanced debut shimmers with all the intricate, singular beauty of the snow crystals that beguile Flannery, one of the novel’s many unforgettable characters. The men and women of Mary Helen Specht’s imagination inhabit a world of breathtaking vividness, where life’s pains and pleasures ripple through to marvelous effect. A heartbreaking, edifying, and resonant work of art.”
— Keija Parssinen, author of The Ruins of Us
“In prose as quirky and elegant as its characters, Specht proves that — after confusion, missteps, even denial — a village can embrace you. Each of these characters set on saving the world in his or her fine-tuned way is forced to face the bad news life inevitably delivers. One by one, they lower their sights and love each other fiercely, protectively, making a community more beautiful than the one they first envisioned because it’s real. This big, dreamy novel flies by as swift as time.”
— Debra Monroe, author of On the Outskirts of Normal
“A beautifully precise group portrait in which Mary Helen Specht manages to capture not just a particular set of characters but a generational mood and moment. Without forcing any answers, it asks a powerful, probing question: how should you behave when life suddenly gets real?”
— Stephen Harrigan, author of Remember Ben Clayton
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