Facing his own autumnal milestone, a 50-year-old novelist takes time to pursue a lifelong dream: ``to spend three months focused entirely on trying to do falconry right.'' O'Brien (In the Center of the Nation, 1991, etc.) has hunted with falcons since boyhood, when he tamed his first hawk and cobbled together a backyard mews from packing crates. He is now the owner of a ranch near the Black Hills, where he tenuously maintains a life focused on writing and hunting, and where he has better than a thousand acres of South Dakota prairie to work with. In a bid to come to grips with a midlife crisis, and to strengthen his attachment to his life on the land--and to the animals that share it with him--he indulges his falconry passion full-time for a season. Acquiring three fledgling peregrines (one of which develops into the best bird he has ever flown), O'Brien sets about teaching them to hunt sharptailed grouse. The step-by-step account of that delicate process is an eye-opening chronicle of interspecies cooperation and a gripping dramatization of how hard-won is the ideal balance between tameness and wildness that makes falconry possible. Myriad complications ensue--most notably the interference of a renegade Cooper's hawk, which threatens to scare off the falcons until tamed and added to the group. O'Brien counterbalances this narrative by tracing his development as an outdoorsman, eschewing easy sentimentality while forcefully reaffirming his love for nature and for his independent lifestyle. Particularly interesting is the story of how he introduced his wife, Kris (now an avid sportswoman), to hunting. Though O'Brien generally minimizes the Iron John angst, Kris's reasonableness is a welcome foil to his middle-aged craziness, which she reckons, rightly, to be a ``male thing.'' A ``why-do'' book that nevertheless offers plenty of how-to insight for falconry aficionados and newcomers alike--a beautifully wrought, demystifying look at the sport of hunting with hawks.