Rebecca K. O’Connor‘s memoir, Lift, offers a fascinating glimpse into the world of falconry, a form of hunting as storied as it is complex. Ostensibly telling the story of her efforts at training a peregrine falcon, O’Connor deftly uses her experience with the bird as a metaphor for overcoming–and, indeed, soaring above–all of the curve balls that life has thrown at her. Her mother, for example, left the family when the author was a young child, her father was always distant, and her unearned reputation for sexual promiscuity led eventually to work as a stripper. None of this, however, causes O’Connor to wallow in self-pity for even a moment. Rather, it serves as the backdrop against which she frames the rest of her life. Her history presents a challenge, but rising to that challenge, like rising to the challenge of gaining the trust of a wild animal, is what ultimately makes O’Connor’s life, not to mention her memoir, so satisfying.
In addition to allowing O’Connor to comment on her own life (and, by extension, the human condition in general), Lift offers the author an opportunity to shed light on the sport of falconry as well. Or perhaps a better phrase would be the art of falconry, for O’Connor’s efforts at bonding with her falcon amount to a curious mix of patience, experimentation, improvisation, and, most of all, patience; that she names her falcon Anakin after Darth Vader’s alter-ego is also a hint that the sport is as much about discipline as it is about the forces that bind the universe together.
While O’Connor’s examination of falconry frequently borders on the mystical, she also has the rare ability to immerse her reader in the romance of a subject without romanticizing it. For this reason, Lift amounts to a fascinating reading not only for anyone interested in the sport but in stories well told and lives well lived.
Reviewer’s Note: Lift and Seducing the Spirits (by Louise Young) make a great paired reading! Birds (of one feather or another) are at the heart of both books, and both explore the rugged terrain of the human heart in loving, compelling detail.
Marc Schuster is the Associate Fiction Editor for Philadelphia Stories and the author of The Singular Exploits of Wonder Mom and Party Girl.