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Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss
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Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss

4.27  ·  Rating details ·  3,279 ratings  ·  641 reviews
Growing up in Alabama, Renkl was a devoted reader, an explorer of riverbeds and red-dirt roads, and a fiercely loved daughter. Here, in brief essays, she traces a tender and honest portrait of her complicated parents--her exuberant, creative mother; her steady, supportive father--and of the bittersweet moments that accompany a child's transition to caregiver.

And here, brai
Hardcover, 248 pages
Published July 9th 2019 by Milkweed Editions
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Average rating 4.27  · 
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 ·  3,279 ratings  ·  641 reviews

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Apr 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir, 2020-reads
The seasons of life are so heartfelt and poignant. In my life I've experienced great joy and great sorrow. During the pandemic I find myself struggling to find balance in my life and in my reading. Too fluffy feels too lightweight for the seriousness of our situation. Too heavy weighs too heavily on my already sorrowful soul.

But Margaret Renkl gets it right. Through her essays she explores the ebb and flow of life, both human and in nature. Life and nature can be cruel and brutal. But it also h
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.
Olive Fellows (abookolive)
Jun 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
All of this was lovely and heartbreaking, but ESPECIALLY the last two vignettes.
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.
reading is my hustle
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. ...more
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 exper
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 top ...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 ea ...more
Dec 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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 har ...more
 tatiana ❀
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars

this books is as beautiful as its cover, and that's really saying something
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.
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
Jan 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: release-2019
Margaret Renkl takes you on a journey using short snippets of her life growing up in rural Alabama, from her youth to becoming a caregiver as an adult. Her vignettes are beautiful and bittersweet as she examines her life, the loss and grief, and the comfort she finds in the natural world. Beautifully profound, this book couldn’t of ended up in my hands at a better time. It resonated strongly with a recent loss in my own life, that I’m now seeing through a new set of eyes. As I’ve found for mysel ...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.
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
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 weig
Daniel Mccoy
Jul 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: essays, favorites
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, n
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 afte ...more
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
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. ...more
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. ...more
Josephine Briggs
Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A celebration of life. This book was published by Milkweed Publishers. Milkweed publishes excellent reads. I saw that this book is highly recommended by Goodreads and Amazon, so I ordered it from Amazon. Beautiful read. Ms Renkl's brother is an artist. Some of his beautiful pictures are included in her book. A plus.

Margaret Renkl's words are so poignant, sad,beautiful, they can bring tears and joy into one's heart.

Mr Renkl's essays are short, half a page, two or three pages and drift in between
Abigail Bok
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
In short, focused snapshots, the essay equivalent of haiku, Margaret Renkl tells the story of her family and her world—both her inner emotional landscape and the natural world she inhabits in her backyard and neighborhood. (The two are in many ways inextricably intertwined, mutually informing.) This is a form of storytelling increasingly common in our speeded-up, short-attention-span world, and it has its pluses and minuses. On the one hand, at its best it can offer jewels of writing and moments ...more
Heather Alderman
Jul 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A beautiful collection of vignettes of life growing up in the south and of the natural world. I loved how the author arranged the stories from her life along with her observations of birds/animals/plants.
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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.

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