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In Hovering Flight

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  227 ratings  ·  70 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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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  227 ratings  ·  70 reviews

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Ron Charles
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jan 10, 2009 rated it liked it
“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
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 and 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 cance ...more
Sarah Fought
Mar 11, 2009 rated it liked it
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.

Terri Anderson
Oct 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: family, 2010
This took me a long time to read, but not because I didn't like it. There were so many levels to it, and so many complex relationships. It was a love story, Tom and Addie Kavanaugh's. They met and fell for each other when she took his class on birds. She fell in love with him and with birds. He remained as he was in the beginning, a kind, loving, intelligent man. Addie evolved over the years from a young impressionable college girl to a law-defying activist , taxidermist and bitter environmental ...more
Kaaren Matthewson
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
gosh! this book has stayed with me for quite a while after finishing! I find myself thinking/dreaming about the characters. This book explores birds, art, female friend relationships, mother daughter relationships and husband and wife relationships, all while dealing with extreme social issues and grief. I would like to see this extended to a second novel to continue the growth of these characters.
May 17, 2020 rated it liked it
Actually, this isn’t the book I read! It was The Beauty of Their Youth by this author - it wasn’t listed in Goodreads. This one was 5 unusual short stories.
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it
pleasant read at the time but characters not particularly memorable weeks later
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
Dec 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 hist
Jun 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
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, love ...more
Sep 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Micheal Fraser
Jun 05, 2010 rated it really liked it
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 destroyi
Mar 27, 2009 rated it liked it
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 character ha ...more
Mar 30, 2009 rated it liked it
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 scal
Sep 28, 2008 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
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 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Lee (of Shalott)
Jun 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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 Silent Spring (Carso ...more
Aug 19, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
Oct 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 20, 2008 rated it liked it

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
Jan 26, 2009 rated it liked it
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
Oct 14, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 04, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Sep 18, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A moving story of life, love, and loss, so beautifully written, with elegant and lyrical prose. There are so many layers to the characters and the story and their relationships, and it was a joy to experience the skillful unfolding of those layers as the book progressed. Excellent management of different voices and different perspectives; the story moved rather effortlessly between them.

Full disclosure: this novel was written by one of my college professors, and I am ashamed that it took me so
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Joyce Hinnefeld is a Professor of English 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, and of the novels In Hovering Flight (2008) and Stranger Here Below (2010), and the forthcoming story c ...more

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