Lift, A Memoir does an excellent job of combining a description of the art of falconry with the memories of a woman becoming a confident falconer in spite of growing up with uncertainty in her personal life. Left by her parents at a young age, she learns about birds and the natural world from her grandfather, and develops a love of birds including hawks and falcons. She becomes a bird trainer, naturalist, and owner of a peregrine falcon. This is her story.
In Lift Rebecca trains her young peregrine falcon, Anakin, to become a skilled hunter. The memoir follows this training, when Rebecca must earn the falcon's trust and she in turn must develop trust he will return after every flight.
There is a story about being connected to the earth that I particularly enjoyed. Rebecca had been unsuccessful with a goshawk, which she had been trying to hunt with in unfamiliar Australian bush. She was in Australia at the time, helping with a bird show and rehabilitating Australian raptors. Murrundindi, an Australian Aborigine, performed a mysterious "grounding ritual" to help her with the hunting.
"I want her (the goshawk) to depend on me to flush her quarry, to believe that I will let her chase it, and to trust me to assist her once she catches it, but I'm failing."(This quote is from an advance uncorrected proof and may differ from the final publication).
Murrundindi tells her to hunt barefooted, with the dirt between her toes and dirt streaked and smeared, warrior-style, on her face. She soon begins to "hear the land" and sense animals such as wild rabbits, and has successful hunts with the goshawk afterwards.
Flashbacks to her childhood throughout the memoir also tell the story of the Rebecca's childhood, her grandparents, and a renewed relationship with her mother and her mother's new family. It also tells the story of her love for Adam, another falconer. The second part of the book, when Anakin is trained, is thrilling. Stories of the author's finding ponds for her falcon to hunt a variety of waterfowl and duck, and of the people who helped, and the descriptions of the falcon diving to its prey are unforgettable.
Rebecca's story of her love of predators, beginning with her fascination with a praying mantis when she was only a child and ending with her acquiring and training the peregrine falcon Anakin, meshes very well with the equally fascinating story of her own personal life. I recommend this book highly to anyone interested in memoirs and interested in the natural world. I found the stories very moving and the description of the birds in their natural habitat, hunting naturally, very beautiful as well as informative.
Author I want to thank the author Rebecca K. O'Connor for the chance to be an advance reader of Lift, A Memoir. She has written several reference works on the natural world and a novel, Falcon's Return.
Red Hen Press, California
Tentative publication date: Nov. 1, 2009