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There's something appealing about a well-trained bird at your beck and call. Harry Potter had one, Toranaga in Shogan had many, and Jafar from Alladdin had an annoying one. I've always wondered - how is it done?
When my friend Sam recommended this book to me, I was initially skeptical. One, because he hadn't read it yet. And two, my initial research into the book gave me the sense that it was going to be sad and deep, and I'm very picky about my reading order these days. Gotta change things up - non-fiction, to novel, to fun, to thought-provoking. Fresh off of "Capital in the Twenty-First Century" however, I was eager to get away from numbers and global doom, and get into a personal story about life, loss, and an eccentric love.
The structure of the book itself is quite unique, for it compares and contrasts the entire way through with another book called "The Goshawk" by T.H. White. A Goshawk is a raptor (bird of prey) that I pronounced incorrectly the entire way through the book (I thought it was goes-hawk... it's gaws-hawk). Aside from learning many interesting details about a Goshawk's temperament and how to train one, the reader gets a glimpse into how someone else deals with the loss of a loved one. We experience intensely our own grief, but rarely do you get a candid insight into the grief of others. I feel like learning about other people's grief adds a different perspective to grief, throws more light on the pain itself, and perhaps better aids the healing process due to an improved picture of the suffering at hand.
I found the depictions of T.H. White to be equally as interesting as learning about the author. Deeply troubled yet innately aware of what ails him, I found myself hoping that White would find some calm and respite in his life. Yet at the same time, I feel like his life wouldn't be his if he was robbed of that suffering. How often do we wish something else were true, but deep down knowing we chose our current path.
Even if there is a specific message or a theme that Macdonald wished to convey, I don't think it's necessary to dwell on it. It's a personal story of connections earned, lost, and treasured, and now a personal story shared with all, for us to reflect on as we wish.