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Review: Late Migrations

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

5/5 stars

I'm having a hard time writing a review of this one. It's a beautiful collection of essays about grief, joy, love, and the natural world. It was a lovely, meaningful book to read after the death of my father. Renkl points out the beauty in death - that of our loved ones, and that of the trees as they fold up for winter, and the animals in her back yard as they fight for space and food and water. She talks about becoming a caregiver to her parents, talks about the love and wonder to be found there, along with the heartache and anger. It is a wonderful compilation of considerate and profound thoughts. I'd recommend for anyone who has lost someone they love.

I guess I just don't know how to talk about it (yet, anyway). So I'm going to share a few passages I really loved:

"My favorite season is spring - until fall arrives, and then my favorite season is fall: the seasons of change, the seasons that tell me to wake up, to remember that every passing moment of every careening day is always the last moment, always the very last time, always the only instant I will ever take that precise breath or watch that exact cloud scud across that particular blue of the sky."

"I didn't see it when the last breath finally came, when my strong, sheltering father ceased for the first time in my lucky life to be my father. I didn't see it because I had lifted my eyes from his face just once, turned for only a moment to the window on the other side of the room, wondering when the light would come."

"The nest was empty but so newly vacated as to be entirely intact, an absence exactly shaped to denote an ineffable presence."

"The end of caregiving isn't freedom. The end of caregiving is grief."

"I think of my parents every single day. They are an absence made palpably present, as though their most vivid traits... had formed a thin membrane between me and the world: because they are gone, I see everything differently."

"Human beings are creatures made for joy. Against all evidence, we tell ourselves that grief and loneliness and despair are tragedies, unwelcome variations from the pleasure and calm and safety that in the right was of the world would form the firm ground of our being. In the fairy tale we tell ourselves, darkness holds nothing resembling a gift. What we feel always contains its own truth, but it is not the only truth, and darkness almost always harbors some bit of goodness tucked out of sight, waiting for an unexpected light to shine, to reveal it in its deepest hiding place."


  • Best Book of the Year" by New Stateman, New York Public Library, Chicago Public Library, and Washington Independent Review of Books

  • Southern Book Prize Finalist

  • Indie Next Selection for July 2019


UP NEXT: The Broken Earth series, beginning with The Fifth Season, by N.K. Jemisin

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