One of the most striking passages of Mary Helen Specht's debut novel Migratory Animals comes in the final pages. After hundreds of pages in which she weaves together a story of friendships, family, love and loss, the novel's protagonist, Flannery, reflects on her attitude arriving in Nigeria as a scientist, and as Specht describes the scene in her elegiac style, she writes of her character that "She'd forgotten to expect joy."
The book pulsates with this wistful, hopeful feeling as it describes a group of college friends entering middle age. Although Flannery's story serves as the cornerstone of the novel, the wide-eyed narration spends time with every character in the book. From the young mother who feels disconnected from her children, to the architects whose young company is struggling through the recession, to Flannery's younger sister who's showing early signs of a disease that killed their mother, each character is fully sewn and then stitched into the book's story about a support system that's slowly unraveling.
"I always thought the book was a book about friendship and how it changes over time, but friendship is hard to write about," says Specht, who will be at The Wild Detectives in Dallas at 7 p.m. Thursday to read from her book. "I really wanted to explore a group of lives together."More »