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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.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender and I developed a love-hate relationship of sorts. The promises made in the prologue were wondrous and I was so excited to continue reading. By the time I reached the end I felt empty. I loved the style of writing adopted in the prologue. It captured my attention so vividly, I fully expected to fall in love with the rest of the story. Sadly, that didn’t happen.
The following is the story of my young life as I remember it. It is the truth as I know it. Of the stories and the myths that surrounded my family and my life—some of them thoughtfully scattered by you perhaps—let it be said that, in the end, I found all of them to be strangely, even beautifully true.—Ava Lavender, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
That beginning! Ahhh. I feel so frustrated thinking about it now because I feel like I’ve been hoodwinked. In fact, the title itself shouldn’t have been The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. It should have been “of the Lavender family” or “Lavender lineage” or something. The focus on Ava Lavender sounds lot more compelling but it isn’t true. The book was pretty much a historical account of Ava’s family over four generations. I wasn’t prepared for this and if I was, I might not have read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender at all.
Personal gripes aside, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender indeed was a beautiful book. It was so strange at times, it bordered on the grotesque. Yet it was compulsive. While I shuddered for some of the characters, given the things they experienced, I kept on reading, wanting to know if misfortunes could get any weirder. At the same time, a lot of those misfortunes couldn’t have been any more tragic.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender had a distinctly magical quality about it, which hovered beneath the story and on my mind but not once overshadowed the historical narrative of the book. It started with the wings that Ava was born with but traced back along the generations revealed ghosts, real and imagined, heartaches and such an intensity of love, it was more painful than divine.
If historical fiction is your cup of tea and you like highly imaginative stories interspersed with thought-provoking ideas, then maybe The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender will enthral you. Other than that, the other draw I found for myself was the fact that Ava’s grandmother ran a bakery. I enjoyed reading about her routines and all the French pastries she whipped up in her kitchen. I could practically smell the bakery and that to me was the mark of a very well-written book, even if it wasn’t exactly the type of book I wanted to read.
Ultimately, what left me starkly disappointed was that Ava and her wings were not as central to The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender as I had been led to believe through the title, synopsis and the beginning of the book itself.