cover image Migratory Animals

Migratory Animals

Mary Helen Specht. Harper Perennial, $14.99 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-234603-2

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.)