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Reviews

“She succeeds in steering clear of our infamous national polarization by regarding the United States not, as some do, as an idea, an experiment, or some other such thing, but as a place. In this regard her approach is traditionally Southern.”

~Richard Tillinghast for Chapter 16

“Essayist Margaret Renkl, who is based in Nashville, Tennessee, is a genius at pulling expansive metaphors out of the natural world. For instance, she’ll gracefully equate butterflies with democracy to get into why we should protect both.”

~Heather Hansman for Outside

 

“Renkl describes in one essay how she interviewed the great civil rights leader John Lewis in the Nashville Public Library, with tears streaming down her face. 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.”

~Barbara J. King for National Public Radio

Renkl “speaks to us as readers in a way that makes us all feel like family and with a gentle wisdom that will make you want to spend hours in her company. No matter where you’re from, column after column, Margaret Renkl will make you feel right at home.”

~Olive Fellows for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Reading the short essays in this book has strengthened my understanding and love for the South, its people, its land, and its complexities.”

~Gabriela Gomez-Misserian for Garden & Gun

“Margaret Renkl is so likable, as a writer and an individual, with her rich family traditions, her concern for justice, and her observant and unsentimental love of nature, that every paragraph feels like a conversation with a friend.”

~Sarah White for Brevity

“Above all, Renkl is a master prose stylist, her generation’s E.B. White. Whatever she writes about comes alive through carefully crafted sentences in which sound and sense harmonize at the highest levels.”

~David Starkey for the California Review of Books

“Renkl is a lovely writer, and to read her work is to be reminded that as a younger woman, she once aspired to be a poet. In one sense, she’s realized that dream; her lyrical sentences sing from the page.”

~Danny Heitman for The Christian Science Monitor

“In a time when objective truths are questioned and even talking about the weather can become politicized, Renkl’s writing works to defy polarity.”

~Kait Walser for Hippocampus Magazine

“I keep this book nearby to revisit the humanity and hope in its pages.”

~Elfrieda Abbe for the Star Tribune

“Come for the righteousness, stay for the linguistic sorcery: these entries are as wont to laud ‘a seedling muscling through the soil’ as they are to draw lessons from a fox in a stroller, or a college athlete breaking a glass ceiling during Covid-19. Charming accounts of vengeful mall Santas, roadside attractions as proof of humanity’s wit and wile, and drawing peace from family heirlooms round the irresistible collection out.”

~Michelle Schengler for Foreword Reviews

“Doesn’t shy from hard topics but explores them with the careful hand of someone whose heart yearns for healing, growth, and understanding for the region she loves.”

~Ashley Leath for Country Living

“So far, this lovely little book is bright, courteous, and informative, even lady-like, but then Renkl ventures into territory that more timid Southerners would avoid: sex, religion, and politics.”

~Kitty Kelley for the Washington Independent Review of  Books

“While the book is not a how-to, we come away with how to better ‘belong to one another’ in a time when we desperately need to.”

~Shalini Rana for The Arkansas International

“Everyone should have a friend like Margaret Renkl: thoughtful, engaged, compassionate and, above all, acutely observant. Since that’s not always possible, the next best thing is to share her company in the diverse and consistently stimulating essay collection Graceland, at Last.”

~Harvey Freedenberg for Shelf Awareness

“Margaret Renkl’s essays alternate between balm for the soul and outrage at the world with all of its injustices. She makes me think and see things in a different light, and for that I’m eternally grateful.”

~Jayne Rowsam for the American Booksellers Association’s IndieNext list

“As a writer, Renkl is—to use a trope that appears to be well-founded—as warm and inviting as Southern hospitality.”

~Connor Harrison for the Colorado Review

“Renkl often finds gifts in the mundane, such as in a power outage caused by storms. But her concern about our environment never wanes, showing up even in the midst of this celebration of the simplicity of a few days without power.”

~Carla Jean Whitley for BookPage

“Throughout the collection, Renkl maintains a posture of hope and a belief in [Southern] people. It’s a hope that’s contagious.”

~Angela Winsor for Southern Humanities Review

Graceland, At Last takes us to Renkl’s homeland and shines a light on life in the South, its complexities and its hopes. In these pages, you will find Black Lives Matter organizers, churches sheltering the homeless, and even helpful sheep. Reading Margaret Renkl is like seeing the world in color for the first time.”

~Literary Hub, “Most Anticipated Books of 2021”

New York Times columnist Renkl effectively lifts the lid on Southern culture and challenges its stereotypes in this versatile compendium. Renkl’s essays cover the natural world, local politics, Southern-fried art and culture, and social justice issues from a Nashville perspective. [Graceland, At Last] serves as a well-written collection for anyone interested in everyday life below the Mason-Dixon Line.”

~Publishers Weekly

“From her home in Nashville, Renkl vividly evokes the lush natural beauty of the rivers, old-growth forests, ‘red-dirt pineywoods,’ marshes, and coastal plains that she deeply loves. A wide-ranging look at the realities of the South.”

~Kirkus Reviews

“Equal parts Annie Dillard and Anne Lamott with a healthy sprinkle of Tennessee dry rub thrown in.”

~Elisabeth Egan for The New York Times Book Review

“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.”

~Maureen Corrigan for NPR′s Fresh Air

“What books would I want to see included on summer-reading tables everywhere? Two perfect candidates were published this July: first, the much-lauded new novel The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead, the story of a hellish reform school in Florida, and a book of nonfiction by Margaret Renkl called Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss that examines a quiet life through the lens of family and the natural world. I don’t say this lightly, but both deserve to be read for as long as kids have been reading Of Mice and Men.” 

~Ann Patchett for The Wall Street Journal

“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 for The New York Times Book Review

“Rather than a catalog of the natural world as observed from the woods behind Renkl’s Nashville home, this book is a lovely and honest collage of memories, observations, and stories celebrating generations of Renkl’s family as well as the flora and fauna that have made up her world.”

~Rachel Lutwick-Deaner for the Southern Review of Books

Late Migrations “kept me on the tips of my fingers, turning the pages, leaving me wanting more and more and more.”

~Courtney Ruttenbur Bulsiewicz for Brevity

“[Renkl] guides us through a South lush with bluebirds, pecan orchards, and glasses of whiskey shared at dusk in this collection of prose in poetry-size bits; as it celebrates bounty, it also mourns the profound losses we face every day.”

~O, the Oprah Magazine

“Late Migrations has echoes of Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life―with grandparents, sons, dogs and birds sharing the spotlight, it’s a witty, warm and unaccountably soothing all-American story.”

~People

“Magnificent. … Conjure your favorite place in the natural world: beach, mountain, lake, forest, porch, windowsill rooftop? Precisely there is the best place in which to savor this book.”

~Barbara J. King for National Public Radio

“Renkl’s contemplations on life and the natural world are compact, luscious, and unexpected—in an instant, they can weave from crushing tragedy to transcendent joy and then simply pause and listen.”

~Nate McNamara for The Literary Hub 

“Graceful. … Like a belated answer to [E.B.] White.”

~Danny Heitman for The Wall Street Journal

“Cherish the dirt, cherish your father, forgive your mother because the only appropriate attitude to adopt towards life is awe. The world is imperfect, always listing deathward, but is worth inhabiting just the same.”

~Austin Adams for the Los Angeles Review of Books

“Nested within the splendid, Audubon-like illustrations of her brother Billy, Mar­garet Renkl’s poetic voice opens the soul.”

~Trish Beckman for The Christian Century

“Though rooted in her experience at home, Renkl’s exploration of loss extends to systemic racism and climate change. It’s a story of great sorrow as the people we love must die and the natural world is shaped by an ever-warming atmosphere. Renkl offers readers space to embrace beauty and grief in their many forms.”

~Carla Jean Whitley for the Alabama Writers’ Forum

“A lovely collection of essays about life, nature, and family. It will make you laugh, cry―and breathe more deeply.”

~Parade Magazine

“In her poignant debut, a memoir, Renkl weaves together observations from her current home in Nashville and short vignettes of nature and growing up in the South.”

~C.J. Lotz for Garden & Gun

“Margaret Renkl’s Late Migration reads as if made of summer. Short chapters about the natural world interlace with a family story of birth, learning, tragedy, and love set in all seasons. But no matter the actual season, every chapter rustles with tremulous, climactic summer fullness.”

~John Timpane for The Philadelphia Inquirer

“Richly illustrated by her brother, Billy, Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss reprints 10 columns from the Times, though what stitches the book together are extremely short pieces — often just a page or two in length — that sometimes read like prose poems.”

~David Starkey for the Santa Barbara Independent

“The arrangement and pacing of the individual essays are so artful that readers’ familiarity with Renkl develops the way any growing friendship might—piecing together the details and revelations for a sense of the whole.” 

~Nancy Posey for The Los Angeles Review

“Late Migrations can be read as a family history and the record of a lost way of life, an appreciation of ancestors and the sacrifices they made.”

~Alison Hibberd for The New Statesman

“This is a book to linger with. It begs to be felt. It asks its reader to consider home and know that the miracles do not only occur in the large and loud moments, but also ‘in the damp weeds of an ordinary backyard.’”

~Angela Winsor for Southern Humanities Review

“Late Migrations is 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.”

~Gretchen Lida for the Washington Independent Review of Books

“A book that will be treasured.”

~Pamela Miller for the Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Contemplative yet powerful. … Renkl is so in touch with the birds and butterflies of her yard that one could mistake her for a trained naturalist.”

~Carla Jean Whitley in BookPage (starred review)

“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.”

~Beth Ann Fennelly for Chapter 16

“Margaret Renkl’s Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss is a quiet but stunning collection of essays merging the natural landscapes of Alabama and Tennessee with generations of family history, grief and renewal. Renkl’s voice sounds very close to the reader’s ear: intimate, confiding, candid and alert.”

~Julia Kastner’s starred review in Shelf Awareness

“A beautiful combination of memoir and nature writing, Late Migrations feels timeless, a lifeline from our hearts to the natural world.”

~Aurora D. Bonner for Colorado Review

“This book features strong women backed by unyielding family values, carrying with them a formidable backbone as the author narrates her way through childhood and adulthood. There are tales and observations on loss, new life, sorrow, and elation told through ordinary, everyday scenes from her life. Renkl holds up a microscope to her small and sacred memories to make life tangible and unputdownable in the essays in Late Migrations.”

~Jaylynn Korrell for Independent Book Review

“In this magnificent debut, essayist Renkl interweaves the natural world of her backyard in Nashville with memories of her childhood and family members. … Readers will savor each page and the many gems of wisdom they contain.”

~Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“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.”

~Joan Curbow for Booklist

“A series of redolent snapshots and memories that seem to halt time.”

~Kirkus Reviews

“[Renkl′s] vision is dark – radiant – peaceful – mournful – and joyful, all at once. It is a gift to those of us who look at the small worlds we inhabit – our families, our backyards – and try to make sense of all the pain, and all the joy.”

~Jennifer Puryear for Bacon on the Bookshelf