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Book Review: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald 

H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald

PARENT REVIEW | Tracy Fitzpatrick

When my daughter became interested (obsessed, really) with falconry, a friend and long-time falconer recommended H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. We had the book in hand the next day, and my daughter could do nothing else until it was finished. It has made its way from the bookshelf to her nightstand at least once a year since. This time the memoir took up real estate on my nightstand. And I’m so glad it did. What a gorgeous and deeply intelligent read.

The New York Times bestseller and Samuel Johnson Prize winner takes readers on a unique and intimate nature-filled adventure from its very first page. Macdonald’s use of language is both raw and poetic; it can wrench your heart, and then have it soaring within a span of seconds. The detail with which she describes everything from clouds and bird feathers to her own fear and heartache is pure delight to the senses.

Central to the story, the author is trying to cope with the loss of her beloved father. It was he who taught her about patience and birds—two things that would become fundamental in her life. As things begin to unravel around her and she starts heading into depression, Macdonald, a long-time falconer, becomes increasingly fascinated with the goshawk—a bird she had previously found herself almost repulsed by.

“I’d never seen anything of myself reflected in their solitudinous, murderous eyes. Not for me, I’d thought many times. Nothing like me. But the world had changed, and so had I.”

After she takes the leap and acquires her goshawk, Mabel, she becomes increasingly reclusive, which leads her deeper into depression. Over time, though, her bird displays a longing for more social interaction, which is unusual for that particular kind. It turns out to be a bit of a blessing and a catalyst for the author to reconnect with her friends and family, and ultimately to dealing with her depression.

It feels like an honor to have been taken on such a personal journey and to bear witness to the close and beautiful connection between woman and nature. If, like me, you are an animal and nature lover, you will surely appreciate the bond between a fierce predatory bird and the woman she saved. If you are not, you may find yourself softening a bit to the idea of both.

Tracy Fitzpatrick lives in Southern California with her incredibly supportive hubby, three fiercely independent and witty teenage daughters, two dogs, three horses, two cats, and a rabbit.


TEEN REVIEW | Jenna Fitzpatrick

I have always been really fond of birds. And have been a bookworm. However, I am very picky about what I read, and I won’t recommend a book unless it is exceptional. If the first few pages of a book don’t capture my attention, I will let it stay on my desk and collect dust. I am here to tell you this book is really moving. It never had a chance to collect a speck of dust.

After some falconers visited my school, I became obsessed with falconry. I scoured the internet for days reading about them. H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald was recommended by a former falconer, and when we purchased the novel, I fell in love right away. I’d already read 80 pages by the time we sat down to dinner that night. I ended up finishing the book in three days. (I have never read a book that fast.)

There are a few themes working together throughout the book: family, depression, and one goshawk named Mabel who helps turn Helen Macdonald’s world from darkness to light. With the loss of her dad breaking Helen’s heart, the best thing to help the healing process was clearly an animal. Even though a hawk may not come to mind at first, something you have to train and work with is a great way to keep active and stay occupied while grieving. I have experienced this first hand by working with my horses. Even on my worst days, there is something so satisfying about working with animals that can make everything seem okay. It made it easy for me to relate to the author on that level.

Even if you aren’t into hawks like I am, I still recommend this book. It will give you a deeper appreciation for the blood, sweat, and tears that people put into these magnificent birds, as well as provide you with a thoughtful and riveting story that has no filter.

I would recommend H Is For Hawk by Helen Macdonald to anyone who is looking for a longtime favorite.

Tracy Fitzpatrick

Tracy Fitzpatrick enjoys unraveling life’s juicy mysteries one story at a time from her home in Southern California, which she happily shares with her life-of-the-party husband, 3 fiercely independent and witty teenage daughters, 2 dogs, 3 horses, 2 cats and a rabbit.