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Every day the world is teaching me what I need to know to be in the world.

— Late Migrations by Margaret Renkl

Late Migrations

From 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 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, braided into the overall narrative, Renkl offers observations on the world surrounding her suburban Nashville home. Ringing with rapture and heartache, these essays convey the dignity of bluebirds and rat snakes, monarch butterflies and native bees. As these two threads haunt and harmonize with each other, Renkl suggests that there is astonishment to be found in common things: in what seems ordinary, in what we all share. For in both worlds—the natural one and our own—“the shadow side of love is always loss, and grief is only love’s own twin.”

Gorgeously illustrated by the author’s brother, Billy Renkl, Late Migrations is an assured and memorable debut.

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“A compact glory, crosscutting between consummate family memoir and keenly observed backyard natural history. Renkl’s deft juxtapositions close up the gap between humans and nonhumans and revive our lost kinship with other living things. I hope lots of people will discover it when it’s published this summer.”

―Richard Powers, author of The Overstory, writing in The New York Times Book Review

“A close and vigilant witness to loss and gain, Margaret Renkl wrenches meaning from the intimate moments that define us. Her work is a chronicle of being. And a challenge to cynicism. Late Migrations is flat-out brilliant and it has arrived right on time.”

―John T. Edge, author of The Potlikker Papers

“Beautifully written, masterfully structured, and brimming with insight into the natural world, Late Migrations can claim its place alongside Pilgrim at Tinker Creek and A Death in the Family. It has the makings of an American classic.”

―Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth

“Gracefully written and closely observed, Margaret Renkl’s lovely essays are tinged with the longing for family and places now gone while rejoicing in the flutter of birds and life still alive.”

―Alan Lightman, author of Searching for Stars on an Island in Maine

“Here is an extraordinary mind combined with a poet’s soul to register our own old world in a way we have not quite seen before. Late Migrations is the psychological and spiritual portrait of an entire family and place presented in quick takes―snapshots―a soul’s true memoir. The dire dreams and fears of childhood, the mother’s mysterious tears, the imperfect beloved family―all are part of a charged and vibrant natural world also filled with rivalry, conflict, the occasional resolution, loss, and delight. Late Migrations is a continual revelation.”

―Lee Smith, author of Dimestore: A Writer’s Life

Learn More about Late Migrations


Margaret Renkl is the author of Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, which was published in July 2019. Her next book, Graceland, at Last (and Other Essays from The New York Times), will be published in September 2021. Renkl is a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, where her essays appear each Monday. A graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Carolina, she lives in Nashville.

Writing Samples

See a full list of Margaret Renkl’s weekly essays for The New York Times opinion section:

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Publicity, Milkweed Editions
Claire Laine

Literary Agent, ICM Partners
Kristyn Keene Benton

Speaking Agent, Authors Unbound
Christie Hinrichs
View my speaker profile here.

Downloadable Media Materials
High-res book jacket for Late Migrations

High-res author photo for Margaret Renkl
credit Heidi Ross