Reviewed by Grant McCreary on November 4th, 2009.
Lift is a personal memoir of a falconer, structured around the first year’s flying of a Peregrine Falcon. As such, it provides a little bit of everything: action, insight, and personal struggle.
The main story starts with O’Connor declaring her intentions of purchasing a Peregrine. We meet her mother, her boyfriend, and soon enough her bird, who she names Anakin. Yes, as in Skywalker (an excellent choice, if I do say so myself). The reader shares in the bird’s training, which is a long and gradual progression. Finally, it is time to hunt. But this process is far from smooth. I don’t want to go into too much detail and ruin the story, but let me just remark that the invention of radio tracking devices must have been a godsend for falconers!
Interspersed within the primary storyline are flashbacks to the author’s childhood and other important life events. Besides helping to get to know the author better, they shed important light onto the events and choices made during her first year with Anakin.
I knew little about falconry going into this book, but that didn’t hamper my understanding or enjoyment in the least. A little undefined jargon was used, but it was easy to figure out through context. Reading this book, you won’t learn much about the sport in general or its history (and what is there isn’t very objective), but you will gain insight into the actual practice of it. The moments spent in the field – the training of, hunting with, and (unfortunately for its owner) searching for the falcon – were fascinating. They were my favorite part of the book.
But I felt like something was missing. I was left wanting more about this particular falcon and the falconer’s relationship with it. We don’t really get to “see” the falcon except when it is being flown, and the story is more about falconer than falcon. But this is a personal preference, and may not apply for other readers. And it may be a little unfair, regardless, since the story focuses on O’Connor’s first year with the bird, while they’re both still getting to know each other.
Overall, it was well written, notwithstanding some grammatical errors. Some punctuation, and even entire words, seemed to be missing at points. However, I was reading an “uncorrected proof“, so I presume that these were fixed before being published.
Lift is an apt title, for just as her falcon needs it to overcome gravity, the author also had to rise above her own struggles and obstacles. It succeeds as a memoir, interweaving the author’s life story with a captivating narrative of flying a falcon. I would recommend it to those who enjoy an interesting memoir, along with anyone with even a hint of interest in falconry and those who practice it.
Disclosure: The item reviewed here was a complementary review copy provided by the author. But the opinion expressed here is my own, it has not been influenced in any way.