MIGRATORY ANIMALS by Mary Helen Specht


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A group of brainy friends in Austin, Texas, struggles with the complications of adulthood in hard times.

"Lying in bed, Flannery wished love wasn't so hard on a person." The reader wishes it too after sharing the troubles of the young climate scientist and her friends in this debut novel. As the story begins, Flannery is leaving her adored Nigerian boyfriend and life in Africa behind because her project has been shut down for lack of funding. Back home in Austin, she finds more to worry about. Among her tight-knit circle, most of whom met at a small engineering college with designs on being the "Harvard of the South," little is going right. Her sister, Molly, is beginning to show signs of the Huntington's disease that killed their mom and is alienated from her husband, Brandon. Molly moves out to the ranch where their friend Alyce has a fellowship to pursue her weaving; Alyce is suffering from a depression so severe that she's asked her architect husband, Harry, to take their boys and leave the ranch. Harry and the kids move in with his business partner, Santiago, who's hiding the fact that the economic recession has driven their firm to the brink of ruin and is also nurturing a hopeless attachment to Flannery. In addition to, or because of, their current problems, the characters suffer from painful nostalgia for their carefree college days. Into this tapestry, Specht weaves fascinating details on snowflakes, weaving, birding, genetics and engineering, plus a spot-on portrait of Austin: "Tonight they walked past the bungalow with its garden lined with bowling balls; they walked past the purple A-frame housing a nonprofit shelter for gay youth, past the corner lot where a man lived inside a small historic church he'd had transported from East Texas."  

A finely wrought if somewhat melancholy first novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 20th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-234603-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2014


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