Wednesday, February 15, 2017

H Is for Hawk

This book is turning me inside out. It is one of the most surprising and gorgeous and affecting and powerful things I have read in a long time. 

This book is breaking my heart. 

It's no undiscovered gem--it was on every list imaginable when it came out a couple years ago. And deservedly so. A memoir, a meditation, a weaving of stories disparate in time and character, a deep examination of memory and language and life and death, Helen Macdonald has created a thing unto itself, a tumultuous series of arcs and plunges through joy and despair. 

The depth of inquiry into nature--both the wildness that was and that is disappearing but that still surrounds us, and that within all beings, human or avian or otherwise--is remarkable in its clarity and its curiosity and its profound understanding even as the story dwells in the agony of not understanding. 

Macdonald's dad died, suddenly, and she has a hell of a time with it, to say the least. It capsizes her life and her mind and sends her reeling into herself, into isolation, into falconry. And while the trapping and raising and training and sporting of birds of prey has never been at all interesting to me, every word and interaction and relation is totally mesmerizing. The world seen simultaneously through a human at the ragged edge of sanity and a bird, a young goshawk, at the beginning of her life and her relationship with this human who is both in charge and in need. Desperate need. 

The transformations in the stories are beautiful and horrible, fulfilling and terrible. And the words used to relate these things are just unbelieveably exactly right and memorable. 

This is a strange book. It's scary and powerful, though it may not seem so at first. I can't recommend it enough. But, be careful. 

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