Desperately hoping for approval and attention from her successful ornithologist mother (Pauline), 15-year-old Sarah agrees to spend a summer with her on Great Kauri Island, New Zealand. Sarah has always hoped to do something really well--just like this mother, who abandoned her and her gentle father years ago. Musically gifted, she plans to dedicate herself to a future as a flutist and looks to Pauline for a pattern to live by. But since charming, selfish Pauline cannot tear herself from her work, Sarah must find other ways to learn and grow. She rescues a rare wounded albatross and becomes involved with a strange, mystical old woman, Hattie, who has been waiting a lifetime for Sarah and for Mako, a Maori boy. Hattie, a teacher, bears a message of peace and needs to pass on her power and knowledge before she dies. Mako is her spiritual heir, but his alienation and anger are too great to be overcome without Sarah's help: Sarah's inner strength, her music, and the love that develops between her and Mako provide the needed bridge. Savage's characters are fascinating, though Sarah and Pauline are the most clearly drawn and three-dimensional here. The emotional needs of Sarah and Mako also ring true, while a strong sense of this place and its ancient power pervades the story. Most welcome is the thoughtful message: hate cannot solve political problems; people must involve themselves with one another to know life.