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In Hovering Flight [Paperback]

Joyce Hinnefeld
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

July 27 2009
At 34, Scarlet Kavanagh has the kind of homecoming no child wishes, a visit back to family and dear friends for the gentle passing of her mother, Addie, a famous bird artist and an even more infamous environmental activist. Though Addie and her husband, ornithologist Tom Kavanagh, have made their life in southeastern Pennsylvania, Addie has chosen to die at the New Jersey home of her dearest friend, Cora. This is because the Kavanagh’s ramshackle cottage is filled with too much history and because, in the last ten years or so, and for reasons that are not entirely clear, even bird song has seemed to make Addie angry, or sad, or both. Now, in their final moments together, Scarlet hopes to put to rest the last tensions that have marked their relationship. Through tender conversations with Cora and Lou, another of Addie’s dear friends, Scarlet slowly comes to peace with her mother’s complicated life. But she can do the same with her own? Scarlet has carried a secret into these foggy days-a secret for Addie, one that involves Cora, too. In its structure and style this novel follows in the tradition of writers like Virginia Woolf, Harriet Doerr, and Carol Shields: musical and dramatic, with myriad stories and voices. But the evocative language of this soaring novel is Hinnefeld’s own.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

In this provocative and page-turning debut novel, Hinnefeld (Tell Me Everything and Other Stories) recounts the life of bird-lover, environmental activist and artist Addie Sturmer Kavanagh. Opening with Addie's death from cancer, and her troublesome dying wish—clear orders for a brazenly illegal burial—Hinnefeld's narrative migrates to Addie's days as a college art student, when she fell in love with birds and with the professor teaching her their biology, Tom Kavanagh. The early years of Addie and Tom's romance follows their birding and collaboration on an environmental, antiwar birding book destined to become a classic. Soon enough, though, the birth of their daughter, Scarlet, along with Addie's growing political and environmental awareness, relegate romance to the back seat. As Addie's creative vision shifts from avian homage to political tirade, the effects of her outspoken eco-outrage on her daughter, husband and two closest girlfriends are predictable but authentic, and at times moving. Hinnefeld's drama soars, especially in its depiction of Addie's complicated relationship with Scarlet, who's also trying to find her wings. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"One to look out for: a rare, delicate novel...You can't help but be caught up in the way Hinnefeld portrays their hunger for winged creatures, and for each other...lovely." --Ron Charles, The Washington Post Book World "Engaging, smart." --The San Francisco Chronicle "Rich...interesting and intricate...highly original."--Dallas Morning News "[An] elegiac first novel...replete with plotlines, three dimensional characters, and multiple themes. That both makes it a candidate for multiple readings -- each time through you're likely to find something new to appreciate -- and a difficult book to review...a love story, or a tale about the complicated relationship between mothers and daughters, or the choices cancer forces upon you. Others may see it as the story of longtime friendships between women, or the development of an eco-activist. In truth, Hinnefeld is writing about all of these things, and she weaves them together seamlessly, in prose that is both poetic and understated...Hinnefeld not only knows birds and their songs, she understands how relationships change, both subtly and overtly, how love matures, how daughters grow up, how mothers die, and how, in the end, the reality of change is all we have to hold on to."--Nancy Pearl, KUOW and Pearl's Picks "A rich first novel about love, loss, and the fragile beauty of nature...Particularly notable for its engrossing details about bird life... moving."--Library Journal, starred review "A worthwhile read...Even if you don't normally read character dramas such as this, give it a shot. I was glad I did."--Birder's Library "A reverence for motherhood and the environment pervades Hinnefeld's quite sad novel, her first. That and the importance of finding a way to keep fighting from the grave."--The New York Times Book Review "Provocative and page-turning...Hinnefeld's drama soars..." --Publishers Weekly "A compelling and mysterious novel." --Ursula Hegi "I loved Joyce Hinnefeld's debut novel In Hovering Flight so much that I'm at a loss for the right words to adequately portray it. How to describe this unusual novel that is part field notes of a radical environmentalist, part ornithology lecture (complete with beautiful Latin names for birds like Zenaida Macroura, more commonly known as Mourning Dove), part unconventional love story, and part confessional? In a word--breathtaking."--The Internet Review of Books "Elegant and entrancing."--Feminist

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
By Mrs. Q: Book Addict TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Title: In Hovering Flight
Author: Joyce Hinnefeld
Pages: 258
Publisher: Unbridled Books
Source: Publisher

'In Hovering Flight' is an impressive debut novel about relationships. Relationships between lovers, friends and children. Addie Sturmer begins school studying to become a teacher, shortly before graduating she throws caution out the window and decides to paint and study birds. She no longer wants the stability of a teaching degree. One class seems to change the course of her life. She falls in love with her married professor, waits for his inevitable divorce and marries him shortly after. She gives birth to their daughter and together they follow their passions. Standing beside her are her best friends Cora and Lou.

The novel begins with Addie succumbing from her second bout with cancer. After refusing treatment her daughter Scarlet has come to say goodbye. Addie has chosen to die at the home of her best friend Cora, afraid to taint the history of their home together and wanting to be surrounded by her friends. Cora, Lou, Scarlet and Tom reminisce about their final moments with Addie. Scarlet had the only parents who voluntarily worked on weekends and every chance they had.Their work was very much a part of their lives. They did not have a 9-5 job that they left at the office. Her father, a respected Ornithologist and mother a well known artist and environmentalist. Scarlet grew up feeling secondary in her parents lives. She never felt like she was their primary concern and her relationships with them became strained. She was named after a bird her mother loved to paint. Through conversations, memories and her mothers field journals, Scarlet begins to understand the woman she called her mother. The woman she felt was so different.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.1 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars deeply touched Sept. 12 2008
By panda - Published on
I turned to this novel because I've always loved birds. And the story of these people who, like me, appreciate birds and the natural world moved me for that reason. But, even more, this novel touched me deeply, even made me cry over and over, because of the way it depicts both the deep beauty of human relationships and the losses that are involved in loving deeply. I started to read the book early one Sunday, and couldn't put it down, read it right through the day until 1 a.m. And now I've loaned it to a good friend, but I can't wait until she gives it back, because I want to read it again, to immerse myself in it once more. It's not often that I wish to re-read a book I've just finished. I recommend the book highly."
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars a soaring new talent Oct. 23 2008
By Jackie Blem - Published on
This book is a gentle look at the many forms of passion-- for a cause, a friendship, a lover, a spouse, a child, a way of life--and how they can come full circle in the course of a life. The main theme is environmentalism, but so many different stories and years are woven into it that its tapestry is almost too rich to describe. This is Hinnefeld's
debut novel--it's clearly the start of what will be a brilliant career for her.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Touching Story of love & passion in a world filled with the beauty of nature. Aug. 19 2009
By Amazon Customer - Published on
I found In Hovering Flight to be thought provoking and stirring. I started reading it and couldn't put it down until I finished it. It begins with a daughter coming home to say goodbye to her mother dying of cancer. Addie, the mother, a famous bird artist and environmental activist, is surrounded by her best friends from college, Cora & Lou, and her dear husband, Tom. In saying goodbye, we are whisked off to the beginning of Addie and Toms humble beginnings as student and college professor, lovers who are passionate about the natural world around them. We learn of a complicated life, of the strength of friendship and the agony of betrayal and how the sum of everything draws everyone back to Addie in the end. With the gentle remembrances of the people most important to Addie, Addies daughter Scarlet gains a better understanding of her mother and who she really was. On the surface it is a love story of Addie, & Tom. But just below it is a beautifully written story of the nature that surrounds us and the gifts that it can give us if we just stand still for a moment and take it all in.... listen to the song of the birds... feel the crush of the grass underneath our feet... Watch the soar of a hawk... and how life is precious for all of nature and we should try and appreciate it all while we can.

Bird lovers will appreciate the poetic voice Joyce Hinnefeld lends to the descriptions of the patient wait in the woods to see a scarlet tanger, a wood thrush or a beautiful cardinal, and the mysterious deciphering of a bird song heard in the distance. I've actually gone to Cape May birding during fall migration and this story captures the wonder of it all...

It's a beautifully written story. One that you may find yourself reading passages from again just to revisit the beauty of nature....

I was privileged to receive a review copy of this from the publisher to share my opinion with my readers of my blog, Chick with Books.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Quietly Underrated Oct. 29 2011
By J. Smallridge - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had a lot of questions about this book when I finished it. To say that the queries are more along the lines of -- how do our passions change, and why?, or what does friendship mean when others' interests expand? -- shows just how deftly Hinnefeld crafts this story for readers willing to tackle such an underrated book. This ultimately is a deeply moving work about how quiet lives unfold, in both beauty and decay.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ornithology and Love March 27 2009
By Debbie Lee Wesselmann - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Hinnefeld begins her elegant debut novel with a seemingly simple line: "According to John James Audubon, there was once a species of bird in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Cuvier's kinglet, Regulus cuvieri, or, as Audubon liked to call it, Cuvier's wren." This sentence hints at the story about to unfold, for Addie Sturmer Kavanaugh, the illustrator of a book on birds and the wife of a respected ornithologist, claims to have seen a Cuvier's kinglet, a bird that only one person, Audubon, has claimed to have seen. That her husband Tom, a respected ornithologist, never contradicts her speaks volumes about their relationship. However, that little bird - either extinct or imagined - serves as a metaphor for Addie, a passionate woman who exists, perhaps, where she should not: in a world that doesn't take her seriously.

The novel opens on the day Addie has passed away from breast cancer, with daughter Scarlet, husband Tom, and dear friends Cora and Lou in attendance. Told through Addie's field journals and multiple points-of-view, In Hovering Flight portrays the evolution of an earnest college student into a protest artist and activist, through the stages of love, motherhood, and friendship that define her. Because Hinnefeld often uses indirect characterization, through the experiences and reactions of the other characters, Addie remains somewhat unknowable, even by the end, contributing to the central mystery of the novel: Who was Addie, and why did she choose the paths she did?

The best novels offer wisdom, even if it is a quiet truth, and this novel does not disappoint. In Hovering Flight is a celebration of birds, love, and art. I highly recommend this book to readers of literary and women's fiction. Its hauntingly beautiful story will stay with you long after you have finished the last sentence.

-- Debbie Lee Wesselmann
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