The Hawk's Way: Encounters with Fierce Beauty

In the radiant The Hawk's Way, naturalist Sy Montgomery (The Hummingbirds' Gift), who has written more than 30 books for children and adults, pays tribute to the raptors that offer her close encounters with wildness--and to the humans who mediate that relationship.

The falconer-bird bond is unusual, Montgomery discovers: it's a hunting partnership, described by her falconry instructor as one in which the human is "the junior partner." Montgomery's hawk-handling experience, which spans more than a decade, begins with a visit to Nancy Cowan, master falconer in New Hampshire. When Cowan introduces her to Jazz, a four-year-old Harris's hawk, Montgomery is smitten: "I love that she is fierce; and I love, too, that she might be unpredictable." Montgomery's travel schedule does not permit an apprenticeship with Cowan, but her interest persists. Along with tales of her growing familiarity with raptors, including her participation in the Audubon Society's Hawk Watch and the introduction to a falconer neighbor's hawk, Montgomery delivers a snappy survey of the history of falconry, with its specific equipment and terminology. For instance, a bird ready to hunt is "in yarak," which linguists say might come from a Persian term for power.

A hawk is a "living dinosaur," Montgomery insists, not a pet or accessory. She passionately conveys the thrill of connection with "a mind wholly unlike my own," but falconry also brings sadness. Jazz dies suddenly of cancer, and this short work (adapted from a chapter of Montgomery's Birdology, published in 2010) is in memory of Cowan, who died early in 2022. Collapsing the distance between birds and people, this concise and charming book feels custom-made for readers of Helen Macdonald's H Is for Hawk. --Rebecca Foster, freelance reviewer, proofreader and blogger at Bookish Beck

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