Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss

An Indie Next Selection for July 2019An Indies Introduce Selection for Summer/Fall 2019From 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...

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Title:Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss
Author:Margaret Renkl
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Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss Reviews

  • rebecca

    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

    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 experiences.

    I enjoyed the parts of her life that she documented with such openness, though no descriptions were uncomfortable seeming. One gets the feeling that she is truly present in the skins of life that are perpetually shed. That's why this book has a deeply personal feeling, but leaves little to be misunderstood.

    I hope Renkl has more in store for us.

  • Kristen Curtis

    Beautiful

  • Adam

    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.

  • Karen

    Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major was mentioned in an essay about a dying English teacher and so I pulled it up on YouTube and listened as I read, impressed by the teacher’s passion and dedication. I finished the book at the very moment Concerto No. 2 came to a close- a perfectly formulated ending to a book so beautiful that I debated not writing about it. There is absolutely nothing I can say, nothing you can read on this blog, that can properly provi

    Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 in F Major was mentioned in an essay about a dying English teacher and so I pulled it up on YouTube and listened as I read, impressed by the teacher’s passion and dedication. I finished the book at the very moment Concerto No. 2 came to a close- a perfectly formulated ending to a book so beautiful that I debated not writing about it. There is absolutely nothing I can say, nothing you can read on this blog, that can properly provide evidence to support the fact that this book is absolute perfection.

    I have always believed that experiencing loss causes one to fully embrace life. Those around you who seem to have the most joy, have likely encountered deep pain. That is what makes you go big or go home, take risks, live fully, love deeply, and breathe it all in. It may also be what frequently gets me labeled “old soul”. Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl was written by a woman who approaches life from an incredible perspective that takes into account the fullness of life.

    "The cycle of life might as well be called the cycle of death…"

    The chapters alternate between family stories and retreats into nature, with deep connection between the two. If you were touched by Mary Oliver’s Upstream, I think you’ll find value in this one too!

  • Paul Ataua

    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.

  • Jamie

    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

  • Caleb Masters

    is a gorgeous, somber treasure of a book. Death and its many forms permeate Margaret Renkl’s meditative work; from the death of her father to the death of a small bird in the road, grief is a constant companion throughout these pages. But the sorrow never becomes overwhelming; in fact, each passage takes on a unique, bittersweet wisdom that can only be gained by experiencing loss. Renkl’s part memoir, part nature writing, and part essay collection is a such a unique reading exper

    is a gorgeous, somber treasure of a book. Death and its many forms permeate Margaret Renkl’s meditative work; from the death of her father to the death of a small bird in the road, grief is a constant companion throughout these pages. But the sorrow never becomes overwhelming; in fact, each passage takes on a unique, bittersweet wisdom that can only be gained by experiencing loss. Renkl’s part memoir, part nature writing, and part essay collection is a such a unique reading experience and one I will remember and recommend for many years to come.

  • Diane Barnes

    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.

  • Catie

    "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.

    Listen."

    "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."

  • Paperback Paris

    's debut, 

    , contains multitudes for such a slender volume. Structured as a series of vignettes through which Renkl juxtaposes her family history with observations of the natural world, this timely collection presents the universe in miniature—the violent, painful, heartbreaking realities of daily life that, when accepted for what they are, yield

    's debut, 

    , contains multitudes for such a slender volume. Structured as a series of vignettes through which Renkl juxtaposes her family history with observations of the natural world, this timely collection presents the universe in miniature—the violent, painful, heartbreaking realities of daily life that, when accepted for what they are, yield hope.

    Renkl writes with the well-trained eye of a seasoned naturalist despite her not being one. Her thorough attention to detail—her ability to name things in the natural world for what they are—imbues each piece with an authoritative grist and a tapestry-like quality, aided by Renkl's assured poetic flair. Her encyclopedic knowledge of the natural world, particularly her knowledge of birds and flora, stems from the adventurous days of an uninhibited childhood during which time was spent running barefoot in the red clay of southern Alabama. Such is her attachment that a twenty-something Renkl could not complete her graduate course in Philadelphia, where she came to understand the loss of nature was like the loss of home.

    In the present, Renkl makes a small haven for wildlife out of her backyard in Tennessee, where she observes the "red in beak and claw" behavior of territorial passerine birds and the steady predation of rat snakes and raptors alike. "This life thrives on death," she writes, and with that, the difficulty in knowing when to provide aid and when to leave things as they are. Through these observations, Renkl tells stories of her family, her universe—an endless source of deep love, support, and humor. Their struggles, presented in tandem with scenes from the natural world and the insight Renkl draws from them, weave together to form a narrative that discourages cynicism and despair. And while it might take the reader some time to gain purchase in the short, seemingly desultory passages at the book's beginning, the overall effect is something deeply moving.

    When I began

    , I feared what conclusions Renkl would present concerning the ever-growing existential threat to our natural world. After all—the longstanding hope of our species, all our talk of eternity—rests on the fact that life will continue beyond our oblivion until the sun reaches the end of its life cycle and the entire galaxy is destroyed. How do we manage the weight of this knowledge? And with it—how do we possibly maintain hope? Renkl touches on the effects of climate change lightly, going into some detail about the ways in which the migrations of certain birds are altered by changes in climate patters and the forced encroachment of non-native species into areas where their presence threatens native wildlife. I was saddened by these accounts, but I was also unexpectedly comforted by Renkl's optimism about the resiliency of these living things.  She does not place blame, or attempt to shame anyone, the implication being that, while the situation is dire, there is always the chance for life to regain its balance with death. Ultimately, the cycle continues as we expect it to. Every living thing adapts to tragedy.

    On her imagining of what an early human would have thought upon encountering the "flare of light on moving water," she writes:

    The beauty of Renkl's writing in 

     is staggering—on a par with other naturalist writers such as

    and

    . The honey-tongued lilt of southern dialogue and the verse-like quality of her prose show a writer with full command of her craft, effectively transforming a slim, unassuming collection of essays into a magnificent microcosm of the multitudinous universe.

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