Excerpt from The Falconer by Dana Czapnik, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Falconer

by Dana Czapnik

The Falconer by Dana Czapnik X
The Falconer by Dana Czapnik
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2019, 288 pages
    Oct 2019, 304 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Lisa Butts
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Print Excerpt

The Falconer

The ball is a face. Leathered and weathered and pockmarked and laugh lined. No, it's not a face. It's a big round world, with crevices and ravines slithering across tectonic plates. I bounce the world hard on the blacktop, and it comes back into my hand covered with a fine layer of New York City diamond dust—pavement shards, glass, crystallized exhaust from the West Side Highway—and it feels like a man's stubble, or what I imagine stubble might feel like against my palm, and it's a face again. I bounce the face, and it's back in my hand and it's something else. A sun. A red terrestrial planet. An equidimensional spheroid made of cowhide and filled with nitrogen and oxygen. Whatever it is, whatever I imagine it to be, I know it holds some kind of magical power.

There's Percy on my periphery. Limbs like a wind chime in a hurricane. He's open in the passing lane. Woo woos for the ball. But I got this. I've had the touch all game. I'm dribbling the sun nice and low by my ankles, like it's bobbing over and under the horizon. No way am I passing it. Dude guarding me has the sometime goods of a former college baller. A powerful drive to the basket but knees that only work every other play. No match for the sky walker in me. I'm smaller but I'm way quicker, with a scary first step and lean, taut muscles I've got absolute faith in.

I take him on easy. Leave him flat-footed and salty as I blow by. I pull up and launch a rainbow from a spot in the low atmosphere where gravity is diluted. The red planet flies through the chainlink net without touching a thing. As though it's been sucked into the perfect center of a black hole. Thwip. Bounces on the blacktop court nice and gentle. Puts a period on the pickup game win.

My man just stands there, hands on his hips, shaking his head, looking at me. Grinning goofy. Sweat, like, seriously pouring off his face. Inner me is hard-core gloating. But I'm keeping it cool on the outside. I love schooling geezers who mistake me for an easy mark.

"Girl," he goes, "you the real thing, you the real thing," and he takes my hand and pulls my whole body into his, smacks my back three times, giving me a genuine but sweaty bro hug.

There's only one place in the whole universe where a pizza bagel—a Jewish and Italian mutt-girl—might get that exact compliment from a middle-aged black guy: 40 degrees latitude and -73 degrees longitude. Find it on your atlas.

"Ball hog," Percy shouts as he ambles over. Making music as he moves. He dangles his lily-white arm with its random pale brown freckle clusters over my shoulders and whines, "I was open, man."

So was I. But all I do is smirk at him as if to say, Tough shit. Jackass looks even better to me when he's pissed. Even with his patchy, scraggly attempt at a beard and the greasy hair he's growing out from the bowl cut he's had since he was five. Something about that potent combo of sweat and Drakkar Noir and competitiveness just does it for me.

The old dudes leave, citing the obvious excuses: Gotta get home. It's late. The wife. Yeah, whatever. I know the real reason. No fun getting your asses handed to you by a couple of high school kids, especially when one of them is a seventeen-year-old girl.

They take the red spheroid-face-star with them. I met that basketball for the first time only thirty minutes ago but I already know I love it unconditionally, and that it loves me back in a way that no carbon-based life-form ever will. I mourn it as I watch it leave, tucked under my man's arm. I ought not to imbue a ball with so much magic, but when I'm holding one I go from Lucy Adler, invisible girl—lowercase i, lowercase g—to Lucy Adler, Warrior Goddess of Mannahatta, Island of Many Hills. The court is my phone booth. I am transformed.

Percy goes, "I'm up for a little one-on-one action."

Excerpted from The Falconer by Dana Czapnik . Copyright © 2019 by Dana Czapnik . Excerpted by permission of Atria Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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