Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Posted December 8, 2014 by Lori in Books / 2 Comments Tags: , ,

Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Published by Candlewick Press on 2014-03-25
Genres: Family, Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 301
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-stars

Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.

Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird.

In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naïve to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the Summer Solstice celebration.

That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava’s quest and her family’s saga build to a devastating crescendo.

First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

I just finished this book and I have to say that it was so beautiful and surprising and emotional and lyrical and I was not expecting any of it. I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it. I hadn’t even read the synopsis. All I knew was that it was the book club pick and I was going to read it. And I’m actually glad I didn’t know anything about it first because usually magical realism and historical fiction and lyrical books aren’t my favorites. But the writing in this book was so beautiful and vivid and moving that I couldn’t help but love it.

This book starts out with Ava Lavender telling us about her family’s history. We learn about her great-grandparents and how they came to America. We learn about her grandmother and her siblings and their loves and losses and sadnesses. We learn how her mother ended up in the house where they live and about her father and their relationship. We learn all about her family and how it is that Ava comes to be. For a while, when the book is all about people that I know the book isn’t really about, I wondered why I was being told all of this and where the story was ultimately suppose to be going. But when we get back to Ava and her present, it becomes clear why we’ve been told everything we have and without it, the story would not have had nearly the impact it did in the end. Because I don’t want to give anything away, I won’t say any more about this except that it really was a beautiful and emotional journey for this family and I very much appreciate where Ava ended up because of the past and the influence it had on her present.

Aside from the beautiful writing, my next favorite part of this book was the characters. They were so unique and fascinating. They weren’t all good but I still wanted to know them all. We meet a ton of characters in only 300 pages but because of how they are written, I actually remember them all. And I’m usually terrible with characters. But these ones will stick with you. The brief interactions, the terrible things some do, the hope that some bring, and the love that some show, it will stick with you. These are characters that I will be thinking about for a long time.

I will say that this book is not for everyone. While I was reading, I was able to let logic go and just believed in what was happening. Because this book is magical realism, it is set in our world but includes events that don’t naturally occur in our world. There is magic in this book, though not the Harry Potter kind, and I was able to let everything go and just believe in what the author told me. And things that would normally drive me crazy in a contemporary romance were things I was able to accept in this book. And I think if you’re going to really appreciate this book, you need to let those things go. Otherwise, you’ll just get stuck and miss the true beauty found in the story.

The title for this book really is perfect. It’s strange and beautiful and I definitely recommend it. It was different than what I was expecting, though I don’t even really know what I was expecting. But really, this book is beautifully written and full of emotions and unique characters and very odd happenings. If you like magical realism or lyrical storytelling or are looking for a book that’s different from anything you’ve read before, I recommend Ava Lavender. It is definitely sad, but I also found it hopeful. If you’re thinking about this book, I really hope you’ll give it a try. I’m not generally a fan of magical realism or historical fiction, but it worked in this book and came together beautifully. I won’t be forgetting these characters or this story any time soon.

2 Responses to “Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton”

  1. I am someone who is a very character driven reader, which means I will probably like this! It seems like the protagonist, Ava has been through an awful lot. I also really like the sound of beautiful writing as well. Added to my TBR!
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