January 30, 2016

H is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald

H is for Hawk

I finished this book last weekend, but I've just been cogitating on it instead of writing about it. When I say it's about a woman raising and training a goshawk, that sounds really boring. It's not.

This is a memoir about the author's first year raising and training a goshawk. She was in a fragile place emotionally when she decided to get a goshawk. Her father had just died suddenly of a heart attack and she was bereft. She seems to have had sort of a tenuous grasp on reality and adulting before his death, but then she kind of lost her grip.

She used the hawk as an excuse not to leave the house. She became afraid of people and said it was the hawk. She pretty well lost herself in depression.

But the book is not just about her and the hawk. There are many passages about T.H. White. You know, the guy who wrote The Once and Future King. He raised a goshawk and wrote a book about it called The Goshawk. Macdonald has read that book repeatedly and revisited it while raising her own bird. He was a weird guy, apparently.

This book was good for me. The parts about her grief for her father were difficult, but let me see that my own grief was not out of the realm of healthy processing. I may have felt a little self-righteous about how much better I dealt than she did. On the other hand, I had warning. She didn't. It was good to read about someone else dealing with grief in a different way than I had, and looking back on it and processing what she didn't know at the time, but could see in retrospect what she was doing.