The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton
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.
Review: It took me a week to write this review because I couldn’t find the words to describe how much I love this novel. I don’t know what to say to make you go read it.
The narrator, Ava, is born with feathers and wings. To find out why, she starts looking into her family history. This book chronicles four generations of her unusual family. It’s a story about obsession and heartbreak and wasted lives. It’s both devastating and surprisingly hopeful. “Strange” and “beautiful” are the perfect words to describe it.
I love magical realism, and I like family sagas if they don’t feel completely plotless. This novel is definitely character-driven, so there isn’t much of a plot, but it’s fairly fast-paced, and the characters are fascinating. They’re all so well-developed, which is impressive because there are a lot of them. They each have a distinct personality. I feel like I really understand them.
This is a book about love, but it’s not a love story. The characters’ relationships don’t always work out. Sometimes the swoon-worthy hero doesn’t turn out to be all that swoon-worthy. I love this book because it has elements of magic, but it still feels so real. It’s honest. The author doesn’t hold anything back. The characters’ emotions are raw, and even the good guys have some pretty nasty flaws.
Can we talk about the writing? I can’t believe that this is a debut novel. The writing has a melancholy tone with some bursts of humor. The descriptions are on-point. Most of the story is set in Seattle, but it’s a surreal, otherworldly Seattle. The writing completely embodies the strangeness of Ava’s family. The reader can really feel the characters’ desires and triumphs and heartbreaks. It’s not writing. It’s art.
Since this is a review, I have to come up with something to criticize. If you don’t like magical realism, character-driven stories, sadness, or family sagas, you probably won’t like this book. I love the hopefulness of the ending, but it’s a little rushed. Also, the author repeats names too often instead of using he/she/they. The repetition became slightly distracting.
That’s all I can come up with to criticize. Seriously, I was stunned when I finished this book. I can’t think of anything I hated about it.
This is easily one of the best books I’ve read this year. I can’t wait to read whatever the author writes next.