Wild Within by Melissa Hart

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As KLCC’s book reviewer, I’m constantly on the lookout for new treasures from Pacific Northwest writers to share with you. I’ll hound my friends – “read any good books lately?” A few months ago, one suggested Melissa Hart’s new memoir, “Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family.” Unfortunately, I’m not much of a memoir reader. I tend more towards narrative non-fiction, the occasional graphic novel or book of poetry, and fiction. Lots of fiction, any genre.

A memoir? I like the friend who recommended it. The author actually lives in Eugene, teaches at UO. What the heck? I decided to give it a try.

Hart’s story begins as a transplant from California, in mourning for the deaths of both her grandmother and her marriage. As she struggles with loneliness, pride, and mildew, she meets Jonathan at the Morse Dog Park. When we learn that he’s a volunteer at the Cascades Raptor Center, it explains the baleful eye of the snowy owl on the book’s cover. I realized I knew this place. Earlier this summer, on my first visit, an over-friendly vulture untied my daughter’s shoes.

As love gradually overcomes her fears and squeamishness, Hart and her now-husband work with injured birds. Exploring connections of dependency and caring, they begin to reconsider starting a family. Somewhat naively, the couple enters full throttle into the complex, time-consuming, and very expensive process of international adoption.

About halfway through the book, I began to discover the charm of memoir. Originally, I was a little annoyed at what felt like over-sharing of personal details and trivial fears. I suddenly realized that Hart is offering a surprisingly frank, one-way window into the heart of her transformative journey. Usually we only get to be inside our own heads. – Connie Bennett, Library Director

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