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Review: "H is for Hawk," by Helen MacDonald


This book is quite a remarkable personal memoir. Having won several awards and made a number of "Best of 2015" lists I really looked to read something which might be a bit off the normal reader's path. "H is for Hawk" delivered in every respect. When a book becomes more than a story, when it reaches out and takes the reader to another concept or idea, in my opinion, it delivers wholeheartedly. MacDonald joins three experiences, the death of her father, the attempt at taming a hawk by the writer E.B. White and her own raising and training of a goshawk, into a seamless and clearly understandable metaphor of living, growing and dying. Interweaving these three aspects of her life she brings us to a place where we can push further and comprehend how the world flows together and is really all of one part. In truth, my feeling is that these three themes stand like the legs of a tripod and add to the greater strength of the narrative. The central, unifying experience is the unexpected death of MacDonald's father. She is unseated and the world has come a bit unhinged. It is a fitting requiem, and an insightful record of what the loss of our loved ones can do to us. It made me stop and pause about the losses I, or others, have dealt with and how completely your world can be tossed into a turbulent sea with little foothold and less lifelines. I am certain that this review can do no real justice to this book. I would also like any reader to not think this a philosophical or "deep" book, one difficult to read or understand. Just the opposite, it is apparent, honest and clear. The associations it presents and the opportunities to experience MacDonald's grief and insecurities as she lives them and how we can feel similar is a gift of great craft. Great and significant craft.