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Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,188 ratings  ·  235 reviews
An Indie Next Selection for July 2019
An Indies Introduce Selection for Summer/Fall 2019

From New York Times opinion writer Margaret Renkl comes an unusual, captivating portrait of a family--and of the cycles of joy and grief that inscribe human lives within the natural world.

Growing up in Alabama, Renkl was a devoted reader, an explorer of riverbeds and red-dirt roads, and
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published July 9th 2019 by Milkweed Editions
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Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I read the entirety of this book with a lump in my throat that would neither subside or crawl out my mouth into the cry I wanted it to be. What a fantastic book.
Diane Barnes
Jul 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bedtime-books
I enjoyed this book of very short essays. Easy to read in short snatches of time, the author touches on grief, parental love (from both sides), nature, and beauty. Her prose is beautiful as well. I read this on my Kindle Paperwhite, but the illustrations by her brother were fantastic, so I may have to check out a book copy just to see those better.
Paul Ataua
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful! 112 short and beautifully written ‘essays’ about nature, family, and life that are just captivating. I read it in one workday, forgoing my morning swim, blowing off my lunch, and finally having my afternoon break in the place that has the suckiest coffee and the least customers so I wouldn’t be disturbed while finishing it. It wasn’t all positive, however. It ended too soon, much too soon.
my heart is a puddle after reading this beautiful book of personal memories & the natural world. i am reading it right on the heels of Ada Limon's self-aware poetry. what a summer!

Oct 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I loved this book! The author beautifully captures the natural world and navigates the complexity of loss and grief which in many cases is simply brought about by the passage of time. I never felt overwhelmed by the short exquisite essays, more often I felt my soul had met it's twin. This is my favorite nonfiction read this year.
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
Oct 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was such a lovely book. She writes of her family’s history and her own with such love and compassion, sadness and joy. These family stories are juxtaposed with stories about her observations of the beauty and brutality of the natural world, as well as paintings by her brother. I found the Derek Walcott quote at the end really summed it up - “So much to do still, all of it praise.”
Jul 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I absolutely loved everything about this book.

The way that Renkl describes grief, gives softness to the world, draws parallels between the two, and has room to squeeze in both classic and contemporary references made me an instant fan. She accomplished these feats within the first dozen pages, propelling me forward into the duality of her personal lore and the familiarity of earth's natural story.

I enjoyed the southern perspective of nature.
I enjoyed the southern capture of her relatives
I’m thrilled Jenna’s December pick is about my home state of Alabama and the author grew up here. I loved everything about this book! It’s a beautiful tapestry of essays about grief and joy. The author loves nature and includes it throughout her book. I could relate to so much because I was born and raised in Alabama, still live here and love my home state. The illustrations by the author’s brother are breathtaking. Being a nurse I’ve read many books about grief, this is best. I’ve ordered a ...more
Laura Hoffman Brauman
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Late Migrations is a collection of essays and thoughts on the cycles of life -- both in the author's family as well as in the natural world around her. The nature writing is exquisite -- Renkl excels in noticing the details and describing them in a way that made me feel like I was in the middle of the experience with her. Her reflections on her memories of her family and growing up in the south feel incredibly real as well -- you can see the red dirt roads and feel the love that they have for ...more
Aug 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book and the author's voice. If you like vignettes about nature and about people, life and death told with a spiritual though not exactly religious voice, Late Migrations is for you. I began reading this beautiful, lyrical memoir the same week in which Toni Morrison died. Mary Oliver died earlier this year, and my beloved author Brian Doyle 2 years ago. One think I've learned and loved from Renkl's book is that we are not done here yet. There are still stories to be told and people ...more
Aug 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Profoundly beautiful.
Sep 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
While I deadheaded zinnias this morning, I thought about Renkl's beautiful chapter about the zinnias in her backyard, which feed the butterflies in their blossoming and the birds when they go to seed. This book about Renkl's backyard observations and her close relationships with her parents, who both died when she was around my age, was richly observed, poetic, and elegiac. Desolation threatens to impinge (climate change, drought, and grief), and Renkly preserves the impression that it might ...more
Louise Miller
Sep 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I will hold this book close for many years to come--it reminded me of the Mary Oliver quote: Instructions for a life--Pay attention, be astonished, tell about it. This book is a meditation on both living and dying, on holding people close and letting them go. Sincerely a book like no other--I was both deeply touched and deeply inspired.
Aug 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Wow. I cried quite a bit while reading this. Cried a lot after finishing this book. Beyond beautiful. Very well written. Checked this out at the library and I will be buying this book ASAP; it’ll be one I reread a lot.
Jules Buono
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Late Migrations was fantastic. Renkl shares her life, some large moments and some small moments, mostly during her childhood in Alabama in the 1960s. She writes the book in poetic essay format and connects them to themes like: nature, love, loss, memories and the meaning of life. The essays are soulful and bittersweet. Renkl acknowledges, through connections to nature, that everything that lives will die, but she exquisitely navigates the meaning of life and the grief that naturally follows ...more
Rachel León
Annissa Armstrong
Dec 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written book about love, loss, nature and so much more. Margaret Renkl grew up up in Alabama and later moved to Nashville. This book is a collection of essays about her family and nature..both of which she loves very much. Highly recommend this book!!!!
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I think it would be hard not to like this book because it's just really pretty. Late Migrations is both Renkl’s love letter to her family and her love letter to the earth. These short bursts of love connect to create a beautiful piece of nature-writing memoir. It's as if Renkl couldn't come to terms with the fact that those she loved were gone, so she immortalized them in print. Would highly recommend.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book is part memoir, part essay, part poetry, part nature writing, and wholly beautiful. Not only did I connect with Renkl's writing because I too
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
“My mother's grandparents went through the day in a kind of dance, preordained steps that took them away from each other—he to his rounds across the countryside, she to the closer world of clothesline and pea patch and barn, but brought them back together again and again, touching for just a moment before moving away once more.”

“Sitting on that front porch in the heat of an Alabama summer, with grasshoppers buzzing in the ag fields just across the road and bluebirds swooping off the fence posts
I wavered between 4 and 5 stars during this listen. It is quite an interesting memoir. The audio narration was excellent on this book,if you like those.
Dec 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting read for me and I was not sure that it was for me. However, there were parts of this lovely book that really moved me and I was very emotional. I listened to the audio and enjoyed it but I missed out on the illustrations. I have put the book on hold at the library and plan to look through the book again slowly.
Lauren DePino
Aug 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing

As I’ve been attempting to reckon with the mortality of my beloved 14-year-old dog, I’ve been reading @margaret.renkl’s glorious, poetic essays, which are both autobiographical and nature-themed. God, this book is beautiful, so beautiful, and I’m speechless. I’ve been a longtime admirer of Renkl’s essays in The New York Times. And I’ve always hoped for a book from her. I’ve been rereading two of her NYT pieces lately: “What It Means to Be Loved by a Dog” and “The Pain of Loving Old Dogs”—because
Nov 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Gorgeous, delicate, compact memoir of care-giving: of children, of parents, and of backyard nature.

Structured in vignettes, it feels a bit like poetry, mostly using a back-and-forth approach between topics of natural observation (mostly migrating birds that the author welcomes to her yard, but other animals and plants as well) and family memories. It accrues significant power.

I feared that this might become a bit precious, but instead it deepened. That isn't to suggest the book becomes too
Daniel Mccoy
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Renkl says she had wanted to be a poet.
She took a different turn and writes essays instead. I just want to say that the jewel-like pieces of writing gathered in this book do for me exactly what poetry should do.
As you read through the book, these short pieces assemble into a collage of something far larger than any one of them. Different readers will likely assemble the collage slightly differently depending on what elements resonate most strongly with them out of these snippets about family,
Naomi Krokowski
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I’d give this book 6 stars if I could! So much resonated: caring for small children and aging/ill parents simultaneously, seeing glimpses of both heaven and hell in the stunning natural world, longing to reconcile the blessings and the struggles.

Renkl’s gorgeous writing and her brother’s beautiful illustrations are amazing.

I have incredible bookreavement. I want more of Renkl’s writing! I’m happy to pay my NYT subscription just to continue reading her essays there. I pray she turns more of them
Gary Kirkland
Nov 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book deserves its own list of "great reads." A page-turner is often used to describe a good book, but this is a book that needs to be read slowly to savor the beautiful writing and illustrations. It's thoughtful and thought-provoking. And for backyard birders like me there's an added bonus, a depth that I never brought to my observations. Seldom do I read a book more than once, but I know this is one I'll pull out again.
Jul 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: bookbox
"What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place."

"In the stir of too much motion:
Hold still.
Be quiet.

"The cycle of life might as well be called the cycle of death: everything that lives will die, and everything that dies will be eaten."
Suzanne Dowling
Sep 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Oh my how I loved this book. What a beautifully written collection of essays on the natural world of life and death combined with those focused on the human side of these issues. I share so many of the feelings and emotions shared by Margaret Renkl. But she expresses them in such a poetic way that I found myself turning down almost every page in the book so I could go back and remember them for posterity. This is a book I'm glad I own for I will be turning to it in years to come.
Easton Smith
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
A short book about birds and parents and butterflies and death and plants and backyards and frontyards and being a child. It's beautiful, if sometimes a bit too sweet for my tastes. The book shined the most for me in the frank, simple storytelling about animals and family. Any urban/suburban naturalist/biologist people will probably love this book more than I.
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#ReadWithJenna: Question of the Week (2) 2 58 Dec 11, 2019 02:40PM  
#ReadWithJenna: Question of the Week (1) 1 42 Dec 11, 2019 06:02AM  
#ReadWithJenna: Questions for Late Migrations author, Margaret Renkl 1 33 Dec 03, 2019 11:47AM  
#ReadWithJenna: Share your thoughts about Late Migrations 2 45 Dec 02, 2019 03:15PM  
bluebirds, pecans and whiskey, oh my! 1 3 Jul 29, 2019 07:18PM  

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Margaret Renkl is the author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss. She is also a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, where her essays appear each Monday. Her work has also appeared in Guernica, Literary Hub, Oxford American, and River Teeth, among others. A graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Carolina, she lives in Nashville.
“The light catches in the bare branches of the maple and clothes it in a fleeting dream of autumn, all pink and auburn and gold. The cardinal perched near the top of the tree bursts into radiance, into flame, and for that moment nothing matters at all—not the still soil nor the clattering branches nor the way this redbird will fall to the ground in time, a cold stone, and I too will grow cold, and all my line.” 0 likes
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