Feral and Clawed: Helen Macdonald’s ‘H Is For Hawk’

Book Reviews, Books

By Cornelia Channing

British author Helen Macdonald’s 2015 release H Is For Hawk takes a genre-defying leap into the mind of a woman unhinged as she copes with the unexpected death of her father. Part field guide and part elegy, the memoir follows the grief-stricken author on her quest to tame a Northern Goshawk, a large and notoriously bad-tempered hunting bird. The book is a parable of loss but also of reckoning, of the things that we do to heal ourselves. Macdonald, who harnessed a lifelong fascination for birds of prey, throws herself into the deep end when she adopts a wild 10 week old hawk. She turns off her phone. She falls off the map. Her relationship with the bird, Mabel, is fraught and intimate, forcing her to grapple with her grief, to give it shape.