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In Hovering Flight

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  190 ratings  ·  64 reviews
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 ...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published September 1st 2008 by Unbridled Books
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Ron Charles
Americans spent $25 billion on books last year, about $6 billion less than they spent on bird watching. Publishers know this, of course, which is why we get a steady supply of updated and reconstituted guides from Sibley, Peterson, Audubon and their various descendants, executors and imitators. There's a natural sympathy between reading books and watching birds: The quiet, solitary pursuit of something beautiful and elusive in a novel or a forest requires the kind of patience and attention that ...more
Elevate Difference
“According to John James Audubon, there was once a species of bird in southeastern Pennsylvania, the Cuveir’s kinglet, Regulus cuvieri or, as Audubon liked to call it, Cuvier’s wren.” So starts Joyce Hinnefeld’s novel In Hovering Flight. The bird itself, a drawing of which is featured on the book’s cover, may have been a joke, an invention by Audubon for unknown reasons. The sighting of the same bird by protagonist Addie Kavanagh, may have also been made up for similarly unknown reasons. We neve ...more
Sarah Fought
This book was a good story about art, mothers, daughters, love and birds. I could relate to all of it except for the birds part and I am looking forward to getting a book from the library about local birds and their calls.

This book was fascinating, and yet I kept abandoning it to read other books. I think it made me a little uncomfortable with its serious nature. I'd become accustomed to fictional birdwatchers being obsessed, but a little silly. The main characters in this book aren't subjects of derision, but a "cool" intelligent couple living their lives in love with birds, nature and each other. The book was to me a journey into the life of a prickly, complex woman and her relationships, who is dying from canc ...more
You know the thing that happens in reviews here, where some disappointed reader says, “I really wanted to like this book, but…” I’m sure you do. Then, the (totally justified) response is often, “I don’t get that. Don’t you want to like all the books you read?”

I’ve definitely been that disappointed reader, and yes: unless they’re wild cards recommended to me by someone extremely dear, I do want to like all the books I read. Multi-hundred-page hate reads don’t sound that appealing, you know? But
Addie and Tom Kavanagh met in the mid-sixties, when she was a student in his Biology of the Birds class with her best girlfriends, Cora & Lou. She was entranced by Tom that very first lecture, an introduction to the wonder of the world of birds.

"Hollow bones. Imagine what this means. Strength and lightness. Flight and surety. They hover too magnificently between the practical and the whimsical, the rational and the exquisitely nonsensical, for any student of their physiology and habitat and
I'm a picky reader. Often, I'll put a book down after the first paragraph because the writer, even in that short amount of time, has already unrolled two or more over-used narrative conventions as if they were writing according to a check-list or a formula. It's therefore refreshing, and even a little worth celebration, to find a book like Joyce Hinnefeld's "In Hovering Flight."[return] [return]The story begins with Addie Kavanagh, an artist, wife, mother, and crusading environmentalist, quietly ...more
Suzanne (Chick with Books) Yester
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, ...more
Micheal Fraser
I always find it difficult to encapsulate a book in easy sound bites like In Hovering Flight. How can you capture the essence of how a book makes you feel; how it taps into your own memories of love, loss, family and youth? I found it an extraordinary privilege to share the lives of these characters.

On one level it is an intimate love story of Tom and Addie who ultimately share that love with their daughter Scarlet. On another level it is a shameful account of modern life and how it is destroyin
In Hovering Flight , opens in 2002 with Addie Kavanaugh, of Pennsylvania, dying of breast cancer at the home of a friend on the New Jersey shore. She is surrounded by family and friends and has made an strange last request for her remains: an illegal burial. When she dies her body is carried by loved ones to a walk-in in cooler at a seafood restaurant. (After that happened it thought this story might be a little far out for my tastes). I continued to read, and I was pleasantly surprised.

The stor
This elegant book has renewed my faith in reading after a string of so-so reads. I think it's a big question - how to write about love without making it the same old story - and it seems the secret is to write about the whole story, first love to death. Towards the end of the novel Tom (the leading man) says "you know, the only times we aren't mysterious to one another are probably when we're first falling in love and when one of us is dying. New love blinds us for a while to all the things we d ...more
In Hovering Flight is a crisp fictional memoir about an ornithologist, an artist & environmentalist and a poet. It is a multi generational story of a father's, mother's and daughter's struggles to balance their love for one another with the demands and passions of their work.

In The Sociological Imagination, C. Wright Mill's distinguishes between 'personal troubles of milieu' (such as individual job dissatisfaction or marital strife) and 'the public issues of social structure' (such as large
Really nice cover art of a small bird in a Kalmia latifolia bush, but unfortunately that's about the most inviting thing about the book. The author can write-- it's intelligent, technically sound, well structured, and thought provoking. Trouble is that the thoughts inspired by both her subject matter and characters include,"What would be the best way to kill all these annoying *^$@&%!!!!!" and "How soon can I finish this and get on to something less depressing?" Of course, not every characte ...more
I really loved this gentle story, which smoothly teased out the relationships of all the characters. Also loved how the title alludes to several persons and creatures who are in hovering transition...and restless...following their own natures. The sheer appreciation of birds and nature is also potent and loving in this novel.
Ethereal, haunting....The night after I started reading this, I actually dreamt I was reading this book, line by line, so much did the author's prose affect me. Initially, I was reluctant to read the book - I'm always leery about reading books about birds because they break my heart. But in the end & after some tears, I loved the interweaving of ornithology & ecology & Addie's life, & the quiet message for all of us that this book holds. For me, this is a perfect bridge from Sile ...more
This book was incredibly dull. What drove me really crazy was how a conversation between two people would be interrupted for a ten page flashback...over and over again. I did not find any of the characters at all moving or memorable – they were each a cheap cliché. Every interaction was terribly contrived or boring:

"'You're the ultimate k-selected mom,' Lou would say, missing the point about species of birds altogether, of course. But Addie loved that. 'Yes!' she'd say, 'I'm a good warbler! Shar
Mar 17, 2009 Sandy rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sandy by: Nancy Pearl NPR review
sorry I wasted the time hoping it would redeem itself by the end. it did not. not a single character to identify with.

started out pretty well, but maybe one has to be a birder to fully appreciate this one. SPOILER ALERT...Only on page 40, but having been through this recently, I can see how these folks are going to get around without having a death certificate?! IRS, banks, insurance companies, heck even the local police might notice that someone is missing and maybe you end up accused of murder
Oct 17, 2008 Ruby rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: bird and language lovers
Shelves: fiction
I would give this book a 4.5 if the UI would let me.

Asking you to be quiet and listen, In Hovering Flight is a book about an uncommon family, an artist/activist, her husband the scientist, and their daughter the poet. Each of the characters is lovingly developed, with the light touch of a careful artist.

Something eludes each of them, like a bird that may or may not exist, and before you can confirm your sighting (from the "blind," which is such an amazing term for a birdwatching hut), it's gone.
I feel like Joyce Hennefeld personally took me out birdwatching and not only showed me the ropes, but introduced me to her intimate circle of friends. She literally made me feel like I was one of the group as I read the stories of how they all met and how their relationships evolved. It felt like she was saving intimate details and only sharing them with me when I knew enough about all of them that the time was right. Joyce Hinnefeld is expert at fleshing out the characters and making every one ...more
For me, In Hovering Flight, was a rare treat. Hinnefeld managed to make her characters captivating without being fluffy, infallible or even really accessible to the reader. I found myself wanting to know and understand more about them but at the same time respecting the fact that they needed their distance and to unfold in their own time.[return][return]The relationships in the book are not the oft described one-dimensional connections of lesser novels. They are complex, bittersweet and realisti ...more
This was the Indie Next list pick for September, I believe. It's a beautiful little book about a couple's courtship and their daughter's reaction to her mother's death three decades later. The main character, Addie, speaks only through her field notes in the past, yet even when she's spoken of in the third person, she can be too didactic. This was probably the point, and I'm all for environmentalism, but her passion for it fell flat and felt repetitive for me. I was more interested in her daught ...more
Nov 23, 2008 Mary rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone
This is a glistening creation with characters that are memorable and true. It drew my rapt attention, and reminded me in particular of some impassioned social critics that I have known in my own life. It is more of an interior, psychological story than an action tale. I highly recommend it.

(Special note to Peggy and Stacey--If the Hinnefeld name sounds familiar, that's because the author is indeed Stu's sister/Andy and Teddy's aunt. Amazing family--1 nuclear physicist, 2 engineers, and 1 dazzli
I enjoyed this book. It tells the story of an ornithology illustrator, from the time she is in college and meets/marries her ornithology professor, until her last days, dying of cancer. It goes back and forth between the two times, letting the story unfold. A big part of the book deals with her relationship with her daughter, Scarlet (named after a bird). (Or perhaps the lack of a "normal" parental relationship?) What is nice is how the author slowly reveals information each time she revisits a ...more

Childhood and college friends remain intimates throughout their lives; supporting and loving each other. Artistic and principled life commitments are the themes of the novel; you'll learn a lot about birds. I was glad I read this book and would suggest doing it in a few consecutive readings; I was traveling and interrupted the read which affected the mood of the writing. If you receive this book as a gift you will enjoy it and if you find it on my bookshelf, feel free to read it, but I don't thi
Like some other reviewers, I have to agree that, for me, the best thing about this book was the beautiful artwork on the front cover.
I found the characters very hard to identify with, and felt little sympathy for any of them. I felt frequently sad while reading this; on its own not a terrible thing, but it lacked anything uplifting to redeem it.
On the plus side, the author clearly can construct a thoughtful sentence, and I found her birdwatching references evocative. Would really only recommend
This book started off a little slow. I almost sighed in frustration at the haphazard writing in the first chapter of the book. I understood her setting a background for the story but I felt it was a tad wobbly and unnecessary. Not to mention a little confusing. I found it to be a love story not just between a man and a woman but between love of art and nature. I found a beauty in birds that I had not known before due to this book. Its obvious that Hinnefeld is an intelligent woman as it shows in ...more
Finally finished!! There were good points in this book, the actual story was good and interesting. The problem was the author went on long tangents away from the actual story line. The tangents were relavent to the story in a way that your elementary school teachers are relavant to your life. I wouldnt recomment to someone who likes a fast paced book, but for someone who likes a slow paced book, that meanders along until it gets to the point, this is the book for them.
This was a beautiful book. I stopped and thought many times as I read, wondering what it was about the language in the book that brought to mind older more genteel eras and couldn't discern the trick the author used. It was a joy to read and the metaphor of the birds in their various states was, while perhaps a bit obvious, interesting nonetheless. I did not want it to end and wanted to see what the next generation experienced.
Oct 05, 2008 Jackie rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jackie by: Matt
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.

Tattered Cover Book Store
Cathy L says:

"A wonderful debut novel that is surprising in all the right ways. It's a love story, a celebration of the natural world, environmental statement, and a story of lifelong friendships. Though Barbara Kingsolver comes immediately to mind when looking for a comparison for Joyce Hinnefeld, I found that her voice was unique, and if you'll pardon the metaphor, as clear and bright as morning birdsong in early spring."
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Joyce Hinnefeld is an Associate Professor of Writing at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pa. She is the author of a short story collection, Tell Me Everything and Other Stories (University Press of New England, 1998), which was awarded the 1997 Breadloaf Writer's Conference Bakeless Prize in fiction in 1997. Her first novel, In Hovering Flight, will be published by Unbridled Books in September 2008. ...more
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