Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Author: Leslye Walton
Genre: YA, magical realism
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads: 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.
While it wasn’t what I was expecting, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a peaceful, enjoyable read that reminded me how much I enjoy generational stories. However, the last 25% became a bit muddled when describing Ava’s teenage years, and my rating fell quite a bit due to how lost I was on the track of the plot. If it was straightened out, or at least more clearly described, I would probably have given four stars. However, I still recommend this book to read, at least once!
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender reminded me how much I love generational stories! In fact, the focus was hardly on Ava at all – it was mostly about her grandmother and mother, and their tragedies in love and loss. To see how Walton wove all of their stories together was the best part of the entire novel, though I can’t say the rest was quite as perfect.
My number one issue with the book was that, while the first 75% was excellent, the last 25% lost that magic. Actually, it probably started losing its strength when Walton started writing about Ava as a teenager. And the ending came up so suddenly, and without a solid conclusion, that I was left looking at my phone screen (using the kindle app) like
But other than those two issues, which unfortunately lowered my rating by quite a bit, I really did enjoy this story. It isn’t one that grips you and you HAVE TO READ the next bit, but it has a quiet sort of attractiveness. It actually took me two weeks to read the entire thing, but when I was reading it, I wasn’t bored at all.
This was also my first experience with magical realism: it took a while to figure out the mechanics (which I’m still not clear on), but ultimately I loved the tiny touches of fantasy in this mostly realistic book. It seemed like the magic existed, and it wasn’t a secret, but it wasn’t totally accepted in society. Some worshiped Ava and her wings, and others shunned her. I liked how Walton included both sides of that, and how she focused on the rest of society and how they rotated around the Lavender family.
All in all, this didn’t seem to be about Ava and her wings, but more about her family and their history with love and tragedy. While it wasn’t what I was expecting, I still enjoyed reading about each woman in the family line, and how Ava reacted to all of that and lived her own life. I do recommend it for a nice, quiet read, and hopefully the finished version will have a clearer ending!
My Final Rating: