Like nothing else in the newspaper, [these essays] burst with awareness of the things of nature, awareness that our lives are led in that midst, permeated with and part of the natural world. All is written with an open, joyful, yet steady voice of wonder ... [Renkl] may not know the science (although she knows the names of birds and plants with precision) but she knows the glory. That’s what poets do: They enact the impact of the real on our open minds and call on us to share the wonder ... The book, although it covers many emotions, owns the hush of high summer ... Margaret Renkl is the most sensible of spiritual writers. She’s not going to fool herself about the world. Late Migrations sings, nevertheless, the best praise we can offer, praise that need not be pinned down to any single doctrine or teaching. She finds the whole world holy and is moved to praise at every turn. That’s enough to warm a lifetime of summers.
...a jeweled patchwork of nature and culture that includes her own family. This woven tapestry makes one of all the world's beings that strive to live — and which, in one way or another, face mortality ... the experience of reading Late Migrations becomes active, engaged, and lively ... Drawings by Billy Renkl — yes, the brother about whom the author worried, who here has created a marigold, a blue jay, a fig, a thunderstorm, with an artist's sure touch — lend extra colors and grace to the book ... Late Migrations is an ideal summer read ... magnificent.
Disturbing images pop up with spooky regularity in Late Migrations ... And yet all told, Late Migrations is a lovely book, made up of short essays that alternate unexpected observations about nature with brief but telling stories ... this is a relatable and resonant book across geographies and traditions ... The juxtaposition of family histories with observations from the natural world seems designed to remind us how biological we humans are, and how much our days and fates are shaped by forces beyond our control. It’s an effective construct, and the sparse simplicity with which Renkl records her observations and emotions belies the profound truths she is presenting ... Late Migrations is a book that will be treasured most by middle-age readers who are losing, or have lost, beloved parents; who are looking back across their own lives ... Renkl captures it well and lifts her examination of loss to a higher and somehow buoying plane by showing that it is no more or less than what happens every day in our backyards, gardens, pastures and forests. But it is our uniquely human gift to love so hard that we are doomed to grief when loss occurs.
The essays that compose Late Migrations stand on their own, offering glimpses into loss and living as they toggle between Renkl’s past and present across the Southern U.S. Taken together, though, they create a narrative that depicts not only the migrations of winged creatures but also the lives of Renkl’s family. (Appropriately, Renkl’s reflections are punctuated with illustrations by her brother, Billy Renkl. The images are as captivating as the author’s contemplative yet powerful words) ... quiet, lovely observations.
... entirely original and deeply satisfying ... Individually, the pieces are polished jewels ... But the discrete pieces gain depth and resonance from accrual ... The natural histories complement and enlarge the personal ones. Renkl’s wry appraisal of both human and nonhuman animals is affectionate yet unsentimental ... Renkl is a clear-eyed observer. She’s also a gorgeous writer ... I can’t help but compile a list of people I want to gift with Late Migrations. I want them to emerge from it, as I did, ready to apprehend the world freshly, better able to perceive its connections and absorb its lessons.
...a quiet but stunning collection of essays merging the natural landscapes of Alabama and Tennessee ... Renkl's voice sounds very close to the reader's ear: intimate, confiding, candid and alert ... the essays are brief—often just two or three pages—and can stand alone, but accrue to form a truly lovely larger picture ... A book of subtlety and sadness, yes, but also a tough, persistent joy in the present and the future ... Late Migrations is itself that gorgeous, thought-provoking gift.
Ms. Renkl crafts graceful sentences that White would surely have enjoyed. A collection of her Times columns would be a welcome thing ... We’re left to wonder what drives Ms. Renkl’s fears ... One at times wishes that Ms. Renkl would more fully explore the implications of such disclosures, but Late Migrations treats them only glancingly. Her narrative is fragmented by design, mixing contemporary reflections with flashbacks to her childhood and bits of family folklore. Its patchwork sensibility seems meant to convey the crazy-quilt texture of personal memory, recollection rarely moving in clear sequence ... illustrated with nearly two-dozen collages by Billy Renkl, the author’s brother. His full-page images, reproduced in color, remind one of canning labels, their aesthetic both a celebration of and an elegy for a rural past. A liberating lyricism informs them, too ... [Renkl's] prose often sings ... The border between lightness and dark is where Ms. Renkl seems most inspired.
...warmly invites its readers to see the world as Renkl does: in reverent wonder and awe of the natural world, understanding that humanity is connected to nature while at the same time audience to its spectacle. These essays teach us to revel in our smallness ... In this collection, Renkl artfully weaves the personal and familial together with the natural and ecological ... All throughout, Renkl writes these beautiful, though haunting, articulations of grief as she’s experienced it and observed it in the world around her ... Herein lies another important gift of these pages—the remarkable ability to look at moments that might seem quotidian and to find, instead, something almost miraculous ... This is a book to linger with. It begs to be felt.
...magnificent ... Late Migrations gives readers vivid glimpses into the life of Margaret Renkl and the world around her ... Paired with beautiful illustrations from her brother Billy, this book will catch you flipping pages, confident that what you’ll find next will be as special as what came before it ... Renkl holds up a microscope to her small and sacred memories to make life tangible and unputdownable in the essays ... These essays can resonate with anyone who’s ever stopped to take a second look at anything ... And though I wish this book could have continued forever, I never finished an essay and felt like it needed anything else. Each essay—even those that last only a single page—is so thoughtful and lasting, providing a lingering contemplation of what I’ve learned and how it’s going to change me ... I love this book, and I really think you would too. Renkl just gets it.
Late Migrations is, to my mind, a perfect book to read in the summer. Renkl scatters short autobiographical essays in between short nature pieces, so that her life story and her life's passion intertwine, like a fence post and a trumpet vine ... This is the kind of writing that makes me just want to stay put, reread and savor everything about that moment ... a vivid and original essay collection.
Renkl...has written a lyrical memoir ... A keen observer of the natural world she so clearly loves and seeks to understand, Renkl tells of housing bluebird families, raising monarch caterpillars, the sadness of death in nature, and the chipmunks and squirrels with whom she currently shares her home ... A captivating, beautifully written story of growing up, love, loss, living, and a close extended family by a talented nature writer and memoirist that will appeal to those who enjoy introspective memoirs and the natural world close to home.
The short, potent essays of Margaret Renkl’s Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss are objects as worthy of marvel and study as the birds and other creatures they observe ... Individual scenes are compelling, rich, satisfying, and always delivered with the assurance that they are powerful on their own. None are weighed down with unnecessary explanations ... As startling images arise, each on their own clean pages, the book establishes a sense that Renkl must have an endless supply of closely observed incidents to her name. It is very easy, very early on, to progress with the absolute faith that this book is a very fine one.
... a book about grief, yet within that grief lies beauty, wonder, and love. It is also a book about nature and family, and it is self-conscious enough to understand that the wild world and the domestic one exist in a braided ecosystem that hums with meaning. It’s Renkl’s ability to lean in and name the heartbreak that makes Late Migrations worth the read ... Each chapter, written as a short vignette rich in imagery and the language of place, creates an immersive experience for the reader ... What is striking is how a powerful yet wonderfully understated love comes through in each of Renkl’s images and family members ... There is a feeling of literary impressionism in these pages, one where the emotional sensation becomes as elemental as the narrative itself ... Strangely, there is minimal mention of the climate catastrophe that waits just beyond the next thunderhead ... self-aware, researched, and thoughtful. There are sure to be dog-eared copies of Late Migrations on the shelves of nature lovers everywhere.
Telling stories is in [Renkl's] bones, but those stories are just one part of this unusual book. Dated passages function like bits of memoir, snippets of her life: recalling romantic love, her mother’s depression, her father’s cancer, her own health scares. Those parts will wholly please readers, but Renkl is also a fine observer of the natural world ... Reinkl deftly juggles the two disparate threads of narrative, all of which is shot through with deep wonder and a profound sense of loss. It is a fine feat, this book. Renkl intimately knows that 'this life thrives on death' and chooses to sing the glory of being alive all the same.
In this magnificent debut, essayist Renkl interweaves the natural world of her backyard in Nashville with memories of her childhood and family members. A poetic storyteller, Renkl captures the essence of the moments that shape and haunt her ... Readers will savor each page and the many gems of wisdom they contain.
...[an] unusual and poignant memoir ... the strength of her narrative is in the descriptions of nature in all its glory and cruelty; she vividly captures 'the splendor of decay.' Interspersed with the chapters are appealing nature illustrations by the author’s brother. A series of redolent snapshots and memories that seem to halt time.