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

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Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
By: Leslye Walton
Release Date: March 27, 2014
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult,Magical Realism, Romance, Fantasy
Pages: 320 (Hardcover)
Format: Hardocover
Source: Purchased

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.


MY RANTS AND RAVES OF The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

I have given myself over two weeks to think about this book before writing about it. And still today, I’m having a hard time comprehending or expressing how I feel. There are several elements in The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender that I love, but there is one big moment in this novel that had me screaming, “WHY?!” 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is beautifully written. The imagery, the language, each strung together sentence wistfully gathers on the page as whispers and secrets meant to be grasped and yearned for. The prose and the magical realism elements are intriguing and beautifully sprinkled throughout this story, which is centered on a young girl, Ava, born with wings and her twin brother who rarely speaks. But when he does speak, his words are foretelling.  

Ava begins her story with hundreds of pages plotting out her family history–a history consumed with generations of love, secrets, death, marriages, beloved recipes, and ghosts. I found the meshing of past familial memories integrated with Ava’s innocent worldviews, both enchanting and overwhelming. But it is the ending of this book that engrossed me in an emotional wreck; it is an ending that is daunting, disturbing, and very disheartening.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is enamored with magical elements and captivating characters that yearn for the unthinkable–consumed with the hunger for love, miracles, and religious revelations. This novel is immersed with memorable scenes. Scenes like Ava’s tongue sparking the fire of an unleavened wafer are unexpected, complicated, shocking, but alluring. I loved this book from Manhattan to a long journeyed train ride to the state of Washington, but it is the novel’s ending that has me trying to justify my overall feelings.  I cannot rationalize the vexing ending,  but I’m quite troubled with why such a beautifully written story has such an infuriating ending.  

3 star rating

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Note:   I bought this book with my own funds. I was not provided a copy of this book by the author or the publisher in an exchange for a review; I reviewed it at my own discretion.  All statements and opinions in this review are mine.

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