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

Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, by Margaret Renkl

In this unconventional memoir, Renkl blends evocative recollections of her family with insightful observations of the natural world outside her home in Nashville.

Told in brief essays, Renkl’s narrative eases seamlessly between the past and the present, bringing the reader from the red dirt roads of her childhood in Alabama to the dramatic showdowns between predator and prey in her suburban backyard. Renkl celebrates the wonder of small, everyday moments—birds building nests outside her window, the beauty of a river, a rat snake hiding in the grass. She also writes candidly about the rocky transitions from child to mother to caretaker of her parents. As the narrative progresses and her own personal losses accumulate, Renkl explores the idea that behind every loving moment of one’s life is the shadow of grief. She argues that in the face of loss, all one can do is marvel at the little things, and make peace with the way of the natural world.

Renkl’s gorgeous prose and observations of the natural world are reminiscent of Mary Oliver, Annie Dillard, and Susan Hand Shetterly. Fans of Marion Winik’s The Baltimore Book of the Dead and The Glen Rock Book of the Dead may find a kindred spirit in Renkl, who brings her late family members back to life again and again through her spare and stunning words. This book also features lovely illustrations that reflect the wildlife Renkl describes.

Late Migrations is a small book that packs a serious punch. Readers will be immersed into and mesmerized by the world that Renkl so beautifully renders.

Review by Shannon Bowring, Technical Services Coordinator.

To request a copy, click here.

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