For the past four years, Margaret Renkl's columns have offered readers of The New York Times a weekly dose of natural beauty, human decency, and persistent hope from her home in Nashville. Now more than sixty of those pieces have been brought together in this collection.
Renkl's sense of joyful belonging to the South, a region too often dismissed on both coasts in crude stereotypes and bad jokes, co-exists with her intense desire for Southerners who face prejudice or poverty finally to be embraced and supported ... Renkl at her most tender and most fierce ... Renkl's gift, just as it was in her first book Late Migrations, is to make fascinating for others what is closest to her heart ... Any initial sense of emotional whiplash faded as as I proceeded across the six sections and realized that the book is largely organized around one concept, that of fair and loving treatment for all — regardless of race, class, sex, gender or species ... What rises in me after reading her essays is Lewis' famous urging to get in good trouble to make the world fairer and better. Many people in the South are doing just that — and through her beautiful writing, Renkl is among them.
...luminous ... In an effort to expand our view of the South beyond stereotypes, she explores the many aspects of her beloved homeland: lush landscapes, family traditions and histories, and political and religious complexities ... Renkl's lyrical prose soars ... I keep this book nearby to revisit the humanity and hope in its pages.
Everyone should have a friend like Margaret Renkl: thoughtful, engaged, compassionate and, above all, acutely observant ... Arranged by themes that include the natural world, politics and social justice, family and community and arts and culture, Renkl's 59 concise essays demonstrate impressive erudition ... Margaret Renkl is both unfailingly honest and deeply empathetic in creating the vivid portrait of her home region that emerges organically from these intensely personal and well-informed essays.