Chapter Summaries external image the+anatomy+of+wings.jpg


Beth: Jennifer’s sister who dies at the beginning of the story. Is said to be able to see angels and really wants to save everything. She especially wants to save Marco.

Jennifer: ten year sister of Beth. Has a beautiful singing voice that she lost when Beth died. Loves facts and birds.

Danielle: Sister of Beth and Jennifer. She has been very depressed since Beth died which she expresses by drawing sad songs. She also has to wear a back brace which upsets her.

Mom: Worries incessantly that her kids will die. Does not get along with grandma and tells her kids that they are not aloud to go see her. When Beth dies she stops trying to be a good mom to her other kids.

Dad: Closest to Beth before she dies. He drinks a lot now that she is dead. Leaves the family because he can not handle Beth not being there anymore.

Angela: Jennifer’s best friend. She is trying to help Jennifer find her voice.

Grandma: A very religious woman who believed that Beth could see angels. she prays to all the saints. Tries to get Jennifer’s voice back

Marco: Beth’s “boyfriend” who is much older than her but decides to break it off because he is afraid of getting in trouble. He is mostly using her for sex.

Study Questions

Why does the author provide background for the other people that live on the street with the Day’s?

Why does Mrs. Day talk about death repeatedly and what does it add to the story?

What do the artifacts in Beth’s box say about her?

What causes Beth to rebel from her family? Did she mean to hurt them?

Beth is obsessed with saving bugs and people does she save anyone or does it hurt her?

What is the significance of the eagles?

Historical Context

The book takes place in Australia in the 1980's in the midst of a economic recession in which the stock market crashes. As well as an environmental revolution in where issues involving the environment cam to the forefront. These world news however do not affect the book and how the story is presented.


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The Anatomy of Wings takes place in a small mining town in australia. The Day's live on Dardanelles Court a street that is within walking distance to a beach as well as a water tower where the girls take frequent refuge. Many times in the book it describe having to take the highway to get to school.

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Key Quotes
"Beth had opened her eyes but she seemed dazed; she kept looking past all the faces bent over her toward the sky. Her lips moved. A very faint smile crossed her mouth." (pg 28)- first time Beth sees angels

" I knew a butterfly wing couldn't repair itself once it was torn." (pg. 30)- Symbolism for Beth

"When she sat in the little living room she seemed too big for our small house." (pg 154)- Shows the tension in the house with Beth there

"When I had cried something had loosened in me, a small section had peeled, and for a little while the new exposed part had throbbed." (pg 208)- Shows that the reason her singing voice was gone is because she was holding her feelings about her sisters death inside.

"' Something terrible is going to happen, you know,"' (pg 237)-Beth's premonition of her death

"For a brief and beautiful moment my yellow wings were released from their pin and floated upward into the room. The whole class held its breath. They flapped three times, gained altitude on an updraft, hovered briefly, and then fell to the floor." (pg. 324)

Author Biography

Karen Foxlee grew up in Mount Isa in Australia on which the story’s town- Memorial- is based on. She now lives in Gympie, Australia with her one daughter. The Anatomy of Wings is her first book winning her the 2006 Queensland Premiers Literary Award for Best Emerging Author and the Common wealth Writers’ Prize. Foxlee identifies most with Australian writers such as Kate Grenville, Cate Kennedy and Deborah Robertson as well as American writer Marilynne Robinson.

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Book Reviews
"Sometimes your ead a book so special that you want to carry it around with you for months after you've finished, just to stay near it. The Anatomy of Wings is one of those books."
-Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief

The metaphors embedded in the story and the luscious prose will hold readers until the moving conclusion."
- Publishers Weekly

A brilliant debut novel, well-written and insightful."
-The Sydney Morning Herald
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