Excerpt from Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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A Novel

by Charlotte McConaghy

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy X
Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy
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  • First Published:
    Aug 2020, 272 pages
    Jul 6, 2021, 288 pages


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The sun is still bright despite how late in the evening it is—it won't go down at all this deep in the season. Along with a dozen snoozing dogs tied to pipes outside the bar, there is also an old man leaning against the wall. A local, given he isn't wearing a jacket over his T-shirt. It makes me cold just looking at him. As I approach I spot something on the ground and stoop to pick up a wallet.

"This yours?"

Some of the dogs wake and peer at me inscrutably. The man does the same, and I realize he's not as old as I thought, and also very drunk. "Uteqqissinnaaviuk?"

"Uh ... Sorry. I just ..." I hold up the wallet again.

He sees it and breaks into a smile. The warmth is startling. "English, then?"

I nod.

He takes the wallet and slips it into his pocket. "Thanks, love." He is American, his voice a deep and distant rumble, a growing thing.

"Don't call me love," I say mildly as I steal a better look at him. Beneath his salt-and- pepper hair and thick black beard he is probably late forties, not the sixty he appeared at a glance. Creases line his pale eyes. He's tall, and stooped as though he 's spent a lifetime trying not to be. There is a largeness to him. A largeness of hands and feet, shoulders and chest and nose and gut.

He sways a little.

"Do you need help getting somewhere?"

It makes him smile again. He holds the door open for me and then closes it between us.

In the little entry room, I shrug off my coat, scarf, hat, and gloves, hanging them ready for when I leave. In these snow countries there 's a ritual to the removal of warm gear. Inside the bustle of the bar there 's a woman playing lounge music on the piano, and a fireplace crackling in a central pit. Men and women are scattered at tables and on couches under the high ceiling and heavy wooden beams, and several lads are playing pool in the corner. It's more modern than most of the undeniably charming pubs I've been to since I arrived in Greenland. I order a glass of red and wander over to the high stools at the window. From here I can once more see the fjord, which makes it easier to be indoors. I'm not good at being indoors.

My eyes scan the patrons, looking for a group of men that could be the Saghani's crew. I don't spot any who particularly stand out—the only group big enough has both men and women playing Trivial Pursuit and drinking stout.

I have barely taken a sip of my overpriced wine when I see him again, the man from outside. He 's down on the water's edge now, wind whipping through his beard and against his bare arms. I watch him curiously until he walks straight into the fjord and disappears beneath the surface.

My wine nearly tips over as I slide off the stool. There 's no sign of him returning to the surface. Not now, or now, or now. God—he's really not coming back up. My mouth opens to shout and then closes with a snap. Instead I'm running. Through the door to the deck, down the wooden steps so slippery with ice I nearly land on my butt, onto the cold muddy sludge of the bank. Somewhere near a dog is barking with high, panicked yelps.

How long does it take to freeze to death? Not long, in water like that. And he still hasn't resurfaced.

I plunge into the fjord and—Oh.

Out flies my soul, sucked through my pores.

The cold is familiar and savage. For a moment it grips me and forces me into a cell, the painted stone cell I know like a lover, for I spent four years inside it, and because the cold sends me back I spend too many precious seconds wanting to be dead, just for it all to be over, right now, I can't wait any longer, there is no part of me that isn't finished—

Clarity returns with a punch to the lungs. Move, I order myself. I've always been good at cold—I used to swim in it twice a day, but it's been so long that I've forgotten, I've become soft to it. I kick my waterlogged layers toward the large body below. His eyes are closed and he's sitting on the floor of the fjord, and he is unnervingly still.

Excerpted from Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy. Copyright © 2020 by Charlotte McConaghy. Excerpted by permission of Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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