In Hovering Flight

Joyce Hinnefeld

In Hovering Flight
Allen & Unwin
1 June 2009

In Hovering Flight

Joyce Hinnefeld

‘A rich first novel about love, loss, and the fragile beauty of nature this moving book is strongly recommended.’ Library Journal starred review

When artistic Addie Sturmer enrols in Professor Tom Kavanagh’s ‘Biology of the Birds’ class at rural Burnham College, Tom recognizes in Addie a mirrored image of his own passion. Their life together promises to be ideal - Addie paints birds and Tom researches birdsong when he’s not teaching. But over the years, Addie becomes not only a famous bird artist but an even more infamous environmental activist and their shared lives change as Tom struggles to make Addie happy while being consumed by his own work.

Their grown daughter, Scarlet, who has spent her childhood longing for a ‘normal’ family, alternately rebels against her counterculture parents and embraces her conflicting feelings about her mother. But now Scarlet has the kind of homecoming for which no child wishes, a visit back to family and dear friends for the passing of Addie.

In Hovering Flight is a generous, elegant and engrossing novel that has as its base the stuff that makes us human. It’s a novel about family and friends, about mothers and daughters, poets and painters, and passion all explored through characters who are inspired by the lives, and particularly the songs, of birds.


Scarlet Kavanagh has returned from New York to Pennsylvania to see her mother Addie die painfully from cancer and to help her father bury his environmental evangelist wife secretly and illegally. Addie and Tom are two academics who are inspired and driven by the beauty of nature and in particular the song of the birds living within it, and each one strives to unconditionally love and support the other throughout their marriage. Hinnefeld’s inspired intertwining of the study of birds perfectly echoes the beauty of love and fragility found in human relationships.

Tom sees his wife physically and spiritually fade into illness and despair and his daughter still struggling to find her own place in a world surrounded by secrets and heartache and wonders at his own strengths to endure or help either of them.

The story unfolds in the past and present through the use of bird watching manuals, recalled conversations and the devotion for Addie held by her two college roommates Cora and Lou who have their own skeletons to hide and resolution to find. Part environmental statement, part love story, it is all-engrossing and a wonderful read.

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