The Anatomy of Wings

Karen Foxlee

The Anatomy of Wings
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The Anatomy of Wings

Karen Foxlee

The Anatomy of Wings is a touching and funny novel by a fast-emerging Australian author who is catching the eye of awards judges around the country and publishers internationally. Ten-year-old Jennifer Day lives in a small mining town full of secrets.

Trying to make sense of the sudden death of her teenage sister Beth, she looks to the adult world around her for answers. As she recounts the final months of Beth’s life, Jennifer sifts through the lies and the truth, but what she finds are mysteries, miracles and more questions. Was Beth’s death an accident? Why couldn’t Jennifer - or anyone else - save her?

Through Jennifer’s eyes, we see one girl’s failure to cross the threshold into adulthood and her family slowly falling apart. In this award-winning novel, Karen Foxlee captures perfectly the essence of growing up in a small town and the complexities and absurdities of family life.


Ten-year-old Jennifer Day has lost her singing voice and her best friend Angela Popovitch believes the key to getting it back lies in the box that holds the few scrappy remnants of her dead sister’s life.

Through Jennifer we experience the grief of her family and the impact the death of her teenage sister Elizabeth has on the rest of their small mining community. Her mother takes to the sofa, unable to communicate her complex feelings of pain, guilt and love. Her father drinks heavily, her grandmother talks to angels. Jennifer takes to the Merit Students Encyclopedia (the US edition, because it was cheaper than the Australian edition).

‘I knew a butterfly wing couldn’t repair itself once it was torn … all through their sleeping stages butterflies dream of flying but when they first open their wings they need to wait … The wings are wet and they need to dry.’ Beautiful Elizabeth, impatient for her wings to dry – struggles and ultimately fails to make the messy plunge into adulthood, but for Jennifer there might still be a chance to get her singing voice back.

This debut novel is genuinely engaging, evoking humour and nostalgia in its vision of small-town Australia in the 1980s.

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