Nature and Memoir

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Xylotheque: Essays

Yelizaveta P. Renfro

Winner of the 2013–2014 Sarton Memoir Award from the Story Circle Network

Trees are guiding symbols for Yelizaveta P. Renfro in her life and in her work. Combining memoir and nature writing, this book comprises nine essays that represent different seasons and slices of time, not unlike the rings of a tree. No two rings are alike, but each accretes to the next, creating, section by section, a life.

“In these profound and moving essays, Yelizaveta Renfro applies a scientist’s eye for detail and a reporter’s investigative prowess to the essential questions of our nature, human and otherwise. Her personal and botanical inquiries into the themes of growth, death, and time evoke Annie Dillard and Edward Abbey.”—Justin St. Germain, author Son of a Gun: A Memoir

“A book of raw power and unflinching wisdom, the kind that cannot be relegated to any particular time or period but which seems to speak out of eternity itself. Like Annie Dillard’s For the Time Being, it dares to look without blinking at humanity’s peculiar and brief place on this earth, and does so with integrity and poetical insight.”—Robert Vivian, author of The Least Cricket of Evening


Yelizaveta P. Renfro is also the author of the award-winning book of linked short stories A Catalogue of Everything in the World. She lives in Connecticut.


“Renfro is a master of what we’ve come to call the lyric essay: nonfiction pieces that find their voice in the borderland between prose and poetry.”


Los Angeles Review of Books

“Like a root system of a wooded hillside, Renfro’s essays are elegantly woven meditations on cultural identity, natural history, coming of age, and death. . . . Here is a memoir that trades self-scrutiny for a broader examination of nature and culture, a lyric voice and perspective that increases our compassion for the world.”



“Renfro’s essays are profoundly moving, written in a rich, deeply felt voice touched with wistfulness and melancholy that resists sentimentality and is unafraid of the violence that is a significant characteristic of both life and death.”


Colorado Review

“Renfro isn’t afraid to take risks; Xylotheque has an essay for even the most discerning readers.”


American Microreviews and Interviews

Xylotheque will demand your careful attention. But it will repay your time and energy many-fold. It is a book you won’t quickly forget.”


Story Circle Book Reviews

6 x 9 in. 168 pages 10 halftones