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Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family

3.97  ·  Rating details ·  106 ratings  ·  41 reviews
Melissa Hart, a desperately lonely young divorcée and L.A. transplant, finds herself stranded in rainy Eugene, Oregon, working from home in the company of her two cats and two large mutts. At the local dog park, she meets a fellow dog owner named Jonathan: a tall, handsome man with a unibrow and hawk-like nose. When he invites her to accompany him on a drive to Portland to ...more
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Lyons Press
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Average rating 3.97  · 
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 ·  106 ratings  ·  41 reviews

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Jun 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
I am obsessed with owls. I adore all birds with every ounce of me but mostly owls. In fact, the best day of my life thus far was when I held an owl and I also sport an owl tattoo. Naturally, I am drawn to a memoir involving owls and raptors told through the eyes of Melissa Hart in, “Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family”.

“Wild Within” follows the human interest story of Melissa Hart and her journey of meeting the man of her dreams (her now-husband) and their time collectively spent v
Jun 17, 2014 rated it did not like it
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Rift Vegan
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Rift by: Kris Decker
I loved this book because Melissa lives in my town (Eugene, Oregon, USA) and I have visited the raptor center where she volunteered and I've met many of the birds she talks about! My pic of Lorax!! How cool is that?!

The writing was great and the story was a good one. It really left me with mixed feelings, tho. The reviewer who gave the book a one star review, down below? Yeah, I agree with everything she said! (well, except, I'm giving 4 stars because I enjoyed reading it!) At the beginning, whe
Jan 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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Dani Scott
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
The writing was not beautiful in a traditional way, but it was honest. I struggled with the opinions she expressed around international adoption and mental health. There was so much cultural naivete throughout the pages and the author's obsession with adopting an asian child felt very uncpmfortable at times. Though, I really appreciated the description of the adoption process and the issues with international adoptions. I also appreciated the author's honesty, as I could see myself not wanting t ...more
Jan 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: gave-to-a-friend
There is so much that nature has to teach us. Can she teach us forgiveness and empathy? I believe so and my thoughts were confirmed after reading about author Melissa Hart's discovery while taking care of injured birds at a wildlife rehabilitation center. Our survival is many layers deep than that of a bird, but the process is the same ... trust, hope and determination rebuilds brokenness. Hart takes you along on a journey of recovery and soul searching that leaves you wanting to run down to the ...more
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
A beautifully written memoir. I was captivated by her experiences at the raptor rehab center. It's always a bonus when you can read a book for enjoyment but come away learning something. I loved the author's writing style and will look for more from her. ...more
David Ozab
Aug 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
Note: I know the author personally and consider her a mentor, a colleague, and a friend. I also think she is a brilliant writer who combines a delightfully deprecating wit with an understanding of deep, lasting heartbreak. The former has no bearing on my review. The latter most certainly—and rightfully—does.

“If I wanted to hear the pitter-patter of little feet, I’d put shoes on my cat” —Wild Within, p 30.

That bumper sticker, which Melissa Hart bought on the Santa Monica Promenade and displayed p
Linda Atwell
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Who would have thought that learning to rescue and rehabilitate owls near Eugene, Oregon would turn into a love story? Well, it did. Melissa Hart did a beautiful job of sharing her story of finding Jonathan, a man who was into rescuing wounded owls in the Willamette Valley. Their first date was unusual to say the least, but it sure didn't seem to deter Melissa from wanting to learn more about this man and his unique interest in birds of prey. Soon she was as smitten with the raptors as she was w ...more
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars
They continue to amaze me. It’s their finesse and their subtle ways that attract my attention as they soar so freely without restraints and then they sit and just stare as if pondering life’s great mysteries, they are truly amazing creatures. Melissa has captured their essence in her biography to such an extent that her own story seems to take second stage to the life of these winged creatures. Such detail and accounting she puts forth into this novel, explaining the lives of these bird
Meg - A Bookish Affair
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
"Wild Within" is a memoir about love, animals, and what it means to be a family. Sometimes family are the people that we choose and not the ones that we are born with. In this book, Melissa Hart talks about how she comes to love raptors. Raptors are not dinosaurs but birds like hawks and owls that hunt for their food. Melissa meets Jonathan who works at a raptor rescue organization and he teaches her about all of these amazing birds. While she is falling in love with the birds she also falls in ...more
Sep 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
In this memoir, we follow Melissa Hart; recent divorcee living in Oregan. While at a dog park, she meets Jonathan; tall, handsome and lover of raptors. He educates Melissa on these amazing creatures and even gets her involved with volunteering at the raptor rehabilitation center that he works at. At first, her decision to volunteer was solely with the hopes of getting to know Jonathan more, but as she gets more involved with these amazing owls, falcons, eagles and other “raptors,” she realizes t ...more
Janet Buttenwieser
Dec 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
“Wild Within” is Melissa Hart’s compelling, artfully crafted memoir about adoption, owl training, and the surprising paths we sometimes take in life. Newly divorced and unhappy in her Eugene, Oregon home, Melissa’s life takes a left turn when she meets Jonathan one day at the dog park. They begin a relationship. Like Jonathan, Melissa begins volunteering at the local raptor center. As their relationship deepens and she spends more time caring for raptor center’s injured birds, she experiences an ...more
Kristin (Kritters Ramblings)
Melissa Hart is an interesting lady with an interesting hobby - as a raptor handler she fell in love with handling birds who have come to be rescued through horrific circumstances, but it is her and other volunteers job to nurse them back to hopefully be released or as Plan B to become a advocate for their species. She is drawn to volunteer through a guy, but stays due to her own personal convictions.

My favorite part of the book was the ability to watch her transformation as a volunteer at the r
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
When I first saw this title by my sister Oregon author, I thought, owls, meh. But I judged too quickly. This memoir is a wonderful book. It follows Hart through a journey which begins when a man she meets at a dog park near her home in Eugene invites her to come with him to Portland to pick up 600 pounds of frozen rats and a barred owl to take to the Cascades Raptor Center where he volunteers. Dead rats? An owl with its sharp beak and talons? But she likes him, so she goes and soon enters the wo ...more
Jul 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of Wild Within by Melissa Hart in exchange for an honest review.

This book is a memoir about a couple meeting at a dog park and feeling a connection. Melissa Hart (on the path of a divorce) whose is lonely and Jonathon (a volunteer at an animal rescue mission) meet at a dog park and establish a friendship. Things progress during a drive to pick up rats and bring them to Oregon and their relationship blossoms. As a result of an illness and procedure Jonathan and Melissa who are c
Kathleen Cremonesi
Oct 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am passionate about animals and gravitate toward autobiographical stories written by women, so I was immediately interested in this book when I heard about it. Neither the story nor the writing let me down. Melissa Hart's ability to present her experiences in a wise and vibrant voice laced with humor kept my interest piqued and the pages turning. I expected to love her experiences with these rescued raptors. What I didn't expect was to be drawn so emotionally into her quest for a family. As a ...more
Steven Modee
Apr 12, 2015 rated it liked it
"Wild Within: How Rescuing Owls Inspired a Family" by Melissa Hart is a memoir beginning with the love between two people who meet at the local dog park and develop their relationship at the Cascade Raptor Center near Eugene while Melissa tests her resolve while trying to bond with a snowy owl. Meanwhile, another thread running through the story is the struggle to grow a family through adoption. It's hard for me to review this book objectively because a lot of what I enjoyed about it was reading ...more
Michelle 🌹🕊
Oct 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Being an avid owl lover, I couldn't wait to fall into this book. First off, the cover is breathtaking. How could you not judge this book by it's cover?

This is the story of Melissa Hart, a newly divorced woman who had never handled a bird in her life. She meets her future husband at a dog park and the two devote long hours to a raptor center. The author incorporates the stories of a few of her favorite birds there and how they helped her get through the adoption process. The two had decided they
Kristy McCaffrey
Nov 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Melissa Hart shares her journey of trying to adopt a child with her husband, first internationally then domestically, while also detailing her years of work as a volunteer at a raptor rehabilitation center. At first she cleans mews and brings food to the birds, but slowly she gains the confidence to train several different owls for the glove. This takes dedication and patience, and little does she know this is the perfect training for caring for a child who might have a history of trauma as well ...more
Robin Mandell
Oct 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reding this. Well-written with lots of sensory detail. The information about birds of prey was new-to-me and fascinating. I felt a little uncomfortable with some of the things the author said about her adoption process. She repeatedly told people (at least, this is how she writes about it after the fact) that they wanted a daughter like their niece who was adopted from Korea. No child is like any other child. props to her for reporting thoughts and feelings honestly even when th ...more
Crystal Robertson
Sep 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Being the avid animal lover that I am is what attracted me to this book by Melissa Hart. One of the first things that caught my attention as I was scrolling through the contents was chapter 22 entitled Prostitutes and Bird Trainers which made me chuckle. It felt very easy to read, but also spiritual and insightful at the same time. It is beautifully detailed which made it easy to get into the storyline and characters, but not in a way as to bore you. From the foreword, the passion for these anim ...more
I learned some stuff about owls... I think I would have enjoyed this more had it just been about the raptors. All the stuff about the adoption process made the author seem a bit whiney; it bugged me that she would say 'we are willing to take a kid with a disability- but not that one, or that one, or that one... oh why oh why can't we find exactly the kid we're looking for?'. I also found myself hoping that they would get a shy kid who loves pink and playing princess and hates getting dirty- alth ...more
Conor Sales
Sep 10, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As a former wildlife rehab volunteer, I read this book with fond memories of the joys and pains of that work. Melissa Hart has captured well the emotional roller coaster that caring for hurt and broken animals entails. Her descriptions are vivid and compelling - although I bought the book for the experience of working with raptors, I found that the adoption story was a wonderful addition and allows the book to become something greater than the sum of the two stories; a tale of longing and loss, ...more
Oct 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this memoir by Melissa about the changes in her life. Recently divorced, she met a man at a dog park, and she wanted to get to know him better. In order to do that, she volunteered at a raptors center where she felt intimidated and hesitant. She gained some confidence which opened her mind to thinking about other life changes to take. Initially, not wanting to have a child, caring for the injured wild birds woke up her desire to care for someone. You'll enjoy reading about her w ...more
Jan 08, 2016 rated it it was ok
I wanted to like this book, I really did. I have never read a memoir where I felt so apathetic about the author. She seems self centered and selfish most of the time, I may be wrong and I hope I am. I felt if I worked with her I would go out of my way to avoid talking to her. Listening to her oscillate from one viewpoint to another was like watching a weather vane in a wind storm. I finished Bill Heaven's It's Only Slow Food... at the same time and I found my self wishing I could meet him if onl ...more
Ana Spagna
Jan 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wild Within is a love story in all the very best ways: romantic love, love for a child, love for a new place, and finally love for birds, individual actual raptors, and the fact that all those types of love intersect in this strikingly original memoir is what makes the book worth reading. Of course some readers will crave more of one sub-plot or the other: More romance! More adoption! More owls! But the best stories, like the best lives, aren’t about Just One Thing. Life is as messy, and funny, ...more
Heather Durham
You don’t have to have any interest in raptors, nor in adoption, to love this memoir. For that matter, you don’t have to have any interest in memoirs to love this memoir. Fast-paced, full of humor and lively dialog, this book is more like watching a romantic comedy than reading a brooding self-absorbed memoir. You’ll cheer on Hart as she overcomes fears of talons and motherhood and enjoy journeying along with her from novice to knowledgeable in both arenas. Because after all, as Brian Doyle says ...more
Karen & Gerard
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wild Within by Melissa Hart is a non-fiction story. One day, Melissa takes her dogs to a dog park and makes friends with a guy named Jonathan. He works at a raptor rehab center and invites her to join him. I loved this book because Melissa tells the story so well and I learned a lot about owls and raptors that I didn’t know before. This book kept me interested and entertained. Put it on your TBR list—you will be glad you did! The ending is just fantastic! (Gerard's review,5++ stars) ...more
Nov 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Wild Within is an engaging memoir about the author's growing relationships with wild birds: the injured owls and raptors who she works with and falls in love with at the Cascade Raptor Center in Eugene, Oregon. This story is intertwined with the tale of her budding desire and journey to adopt a child. Hart’s book is a narrative about the power of building trust and opening your heart. The writer is so personable and frank that her book often reads like a talk over coffee with a good friend. ...more
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I like owls. And traveling. I like kayaking and hiking and camping all over Oregon with my husband and 11-year old daughter. I like cats, adoption, nature, and my lesbian mothers. I'm particularly fond of Ben and Jerry's Coffee Heath Bar Crunch.

My award-winning middle-grade novel, Avenging the Owl, was published by Sky Pony Press in 2016. I also wrote the YA memoir, Gringa: A Contradictory Girlhoo

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