Marian Carcache: Late Migrations

Reading Time: 2 minutes

When I was a student at Auburn, Margaret Renkl became editor of the school literary magazine, The Auburn Circle. She and her brother, Billy, a visual artist, stood out as the brightest stars among the fifteen thousand or so students we were enrolled with at Auburn. Later, I met their younger sister, Lori, another stellar Renkl, in a fiction writing class.

Currently a New York Times opinion writer, Margaret has always known how to choose the right word, how to compose the perfect phrase that could tilt the world on its axis, and how to write an essay that could render the reader breathless, both shattering the heart and offering it balm. 

Margaret’s first book, Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss, was recently released from Milkweed Press. It is a collection of pieces about family and love and loss, about the natural world and about the importance of not losing our kinship with nature. Her brother’s stunning cover and interior artwork are as exquisite as the author’s words.

Late Migrations has received excellent reviews, including high praise from Reese Witherspoon, her former student. The blurbs on the back cover include comments from the likes of Lee Smith and John T. Edge. Ann Patchett predicts that Late Migrations will be an American classic, and compares it to Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. The book also made Oprah’s July “O” List of 10 books readers won’t want to put down.

When John T. Edge describes Late Migrations as “wrenching meaning from the intimate moments that define us,” and adds that “it has arrived right on time,” he sums up the importance of this book to us as a planet in distress and as individuals facing the inevitable losses that love makes us vulnerable to.

In order to make the book last longer, I’ve been allowing myself only a few sections a day, the way I might dole out Godiva raspberry truffles. After another scare with my mother’s health this past weekend, I slept a little late this morning. Then I read “The Imperfect-Family Beatitudes” while sitting in bed with the dogs, drinking coffee.  It left me transfixed.  It left me in tears. The dogs wondered if they’d done something wrong until I hugged them tight and smiled as their tails began to wag. I highly recommend Margaret Renkl’s Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss.

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