Author: Leslye Walton
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
Rating: 3 stars
I’m a sucker for a good title. Who amongst us isn’t? In the wumbunculus sea of books that are out there and available to read, I don’t really have the time to hone the art of browsing through my local bookstore/library in the hopes of whatever I lay my hands on will be worth my time. It’s unfortunate, I know. But I think that’s one of those things that falls under the “things you sacrifice when you’re a busy adult” category. Sigh.
When I came across this title, this magically intriguing string of words, I was hooked. Not only that, but the delicate feather that graces the cover adds a lot as well. Judging by the cover alone (which is sometimes necessary, I don’t care what the naysayers say), this book speaks of magic, heartache, and brilliantly concocted words.
Just say the title to yourself: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. My, my. Surely, a good story must follow. The title demands no less.
There are a few things that hit me as I started this story. The way the words weaved together was one. The story itself came sneaking by in a close second.
To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of love's long lost. But I knew the truth deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.
A mysterious tale unfolds in which we learn about the mysterious Ava Lavender, her equally mysterious family, her heritage, and how she came to be.
To her, she is just a girl. But to those around her, she is a girl born with wings. Wings that cannot be severed, that are irrevocably attached to her muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems. Puzzled as to why she is born with such a strange gift, Ava decides to research her family tree in the hopes of discovering who she is and where she came from.
This is a book about heartache. Heartache that extends through generations of women, namely Ava's mother ,Viviane, and her grandmother, Emilienne, who watch as their families disintegrate, get spurned by those they considered true loves, and how they cling to the past with a fierceness that disables them from living properly. All this is transferred to Ava.
The family is strange, to be sure. But there is no strangeness to their sorrows. Rather, a common theme, a connection, can be felt throughout each character of the book. Walton employs a neat writing technique in that she re-uses certain sentences, tying them to different characters to bind them together in a shared experience.
Overall, the book was a wonderful read. The writing is fairytale-esque and beautiful, the story is appropriately sad, but word to the wise: it is best to make sure you have a buddy close by after you finish because you will not want to be alone after reading this book.
So why the 3 star rating? While I thoroughly enjoyed reading this, there were a couple hiccups that I do not want to ignore. The first one is minor. In the prologue, Walton sets up the story of Ava Lavender by declaring that Ava spent a weekend in her local library researching her family tree. I am assuming she also talked to various family members to piece everything together. She adds in the caveat, I will be the first to admit that certain facts may have been omitted, long forgotten over time by myself or by other involved parties. Fair enough.
Were supposed to gather that through this research and through talking to family, she pieces together her family's history. A history which makes up the book. However, by the time I finished the book, the mention of her doing research at the library really tore me away from the story. I did not feel that the idea for the story needed a reason so specific. It robbed the rest of the story from its fairytale feel and I think the story would have flowed just fine without it. It is a nit picky thing, I know, but I can't stop thinking about it.
My only other issue, and some might call this a big one, is Walton's use of first person POV. The story is told by Ava, but towards the end of the book, she somehow knows what other characters are doing when she is not around. She knows their thoughts and intentions and feelings. Maybe she got the information later, which could be the case. But for a certain character, who I will not say because that would spoil some things, that is just not possible. Luckily, the story kept me going so it did not bother me too much, and maybe someone can shed light on why she did that, but I could see readers getting turned off by it.
That said, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is definitely worth your time. There is enough distance between the world Walton has created and the one we live in to feel a growing sense of magic, but it is also grounded in the everyday so that we do not feel too far removed from our surroundings.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post, and what is more important I hope you learned something from it. If you did, please share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section below. I love reading you you have to say, because reading your comments helps me to improve my blog! Thank you!