Review + Giveaway: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

I received this book for free from TLC Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review + Giveaway: The Silence of Bonaventure ArrowThe Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski
Published by Harper on February 26, 2013
Genres: Historical, Magical Realism, Mystery
Pages: 400
Format: Paperback
Source: TLC Book Tours

Conceived in love and possibility, Bonaventure Arrow didn’t make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. No one knows Bonaventure's silence is filled with resonance - a miraculous gift of rarified hearing that encompasses the Universe of Every Single Sound. Growing up in the big house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, Bonaventure can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He can also hear the gentle voice of his father, William Arrow, shot dead before Bonaventure was born by a mysterious stranger known only as the Wanderer.

Bonaventure's remarkable gift of listening promises salvation to the souls who love him: his beautiful young mother, Dancy, haunted by the death of her husband; his Grand-mere Letice, plagued by grief and long-buried guilt she locks away in a chapel; and his father, William, whose roaming spirit must fix the wreckage of the past. With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed.

First Sentence: “Bonaventure Arrow didn’t make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead.”

Okay book, I’m pretty sure it was me and not you. Listen, I saw you and you were beautiful, and I wanted you right away. I couldn’t resist your allure, your magical realism. I had to have you in my life. Now, though, I realize that I should have gotten to know you better first, before we committed to one another in any meaningful way. You really are beautiful inside and out, but just not in a way I can fully appreciate.

What I can say is that the writing in The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is beautiful. Simply lovely. Leganski’s writing style plays into the feeling of magical realism perfectly, and the way she puts together sentences has a magic all its own. Her debut proves her writing chops, and I would be willing to consider reading whatever her next novel is, solely on the strength of her prose.

The book’s opening captured me immediately, reminding me a good deal of Fitzgerald’s short story “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” mixed with the southern charm of Sarah Addison Allen. The idea of a child, mute but intended for some big purpose, seems fraught with possibility. Unfortunately, the story then jumps back and spends almost the whole of the novel in the backstory of his mother and grandmothers. I never did find myself especially interested in any character but Bonaventure Arrow himself, and he didn’t turn out to be much of a focus in the novel.

Bonaventure, in addition to being silent, has super hearing. He can hear everything, from falling stars to his father’s ghost. Supposedly, this will allow him to do something quite special and live up to his saintly name. His counterpart of sorts, in the sense that they both have special abilities, is Trinidad, a much older black woman. She sees visions, Knowings, and practices hoodoo, which allows her to help people with natural herbs. Her hoodoo is remarkably similar to the effects of Vianne’s chocolates in Chocolat. These elements are fantastic, but I don’t feel like they served any actual purpose to the plot whatsoever. They seem merely to be there to make the setting more vibrant.

Actually, the only real plot seems to involve Bonaventure’s father. William dies before Bonaventure’s birth, shot by a mysterious, insane man. His mother and wife are trying to allay their guilt, the former by trying to figure out the identity of his killer. Meanwhile, William, in some sort of purgatory, watches over his family, and communicates with his son. The whole book seems mostly to be about him moving on to the next world. Rather than magical realism, this is much more of a ghost story.

What lost me, most heartily though, was all of the Christianity in the novel. No, it’s not preachy, but it’s incredibly boring. As I said, I couldn’t be bothered about the backstory of the grandmothers, and their pasts are all wrapped up in their fervent religious beliefs. Every character isn’t Christian, and it doesn’t seem like Leganski’s trying to say anything about it, but I just had no fucks to give about any of it. Like so much else in the novel, I just don’t see why I had to sit through all of that when it doesn’t seem to have had a big impact on the plot overall.

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is a gorgeously-written novel, but suffers from a weak plot that tries to do too many things without tying them together. I might read more Leganski someday, but this one did not work for me.

Favorite Quote:

“‘It’s part of reaching the age of reason. As you get older, you figure out a lot of things with your mind, and you get better and better at it. But one day you realize that some things can’t be figured out at all, no matter how old you are or how much you use your mind, and then you just have to listen to your heart.'”

Though TSoBA didn’t work for me, you still might love it (and what better way to try than a free copy). Harper sent me two copies, so I’m passing one along to a reader (and one to a friend). US/CAN only. Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

16 responses to “Review + Giveaway: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow”

  1. Hm, I’ll be digging into this one over the weekend. I’m looking forward to it but at least now I’m prepared for some of the unexpected wrinkles!

  2. erin says:

    Thanks for the honest review! I had seen this book and thought it looked very…. deep… Thanks for the giveaway 🙂

  3. Amy says:

    It’s too bad that this didn’t work for you. I was laughing at your opening paragraph. Oh, how many times do we get sucked in by a pretty cover only to realize that looks don’t matter, it’s what’s inside that counts. (Okay, who am I kidding, looks do matter. I’m shallow and am not likely to pick up an ugly book, but it’s a shame when it’s the other way around.) Great review, hopefully whoever wins it will enjoy it more than you did.

  4. Stephanie says:

    Too bad…I love magical realism and Sarah Addison Allen, but this book sounds like it won’t work for me either.

  5. Alison says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. Alison says:

    Thanks for the review! It doesn’t seem like the kind of book I would read either. 🙂

  7. Mariya says:

    I really liked your honest, thoughtful, and detailed review. I think this book sounds really interesting and I can’t believe I haven’t heard of it until now. I absolutely love magical realism in fiction (I’m a HUGE fan of Haruki Murukami’s work in particular). I think I am going to really like reading this book.

  8. Audra says:

    Love your comments, as always! Also, so true. I managed to get over the Catholic thing but it was the Magical Negro that made it hard for me to enjoy this one.

  9. Renae M. says:

    So this is a case of pretty ideas that try too hard to be pretty? Definitely sounds problematic. Which is a shame, because the blurb is so interesting and all of the plot points (separately) sound wonderful. Shame, shame.

  10. heathertlc says:

    Darn, I’m sorry this one didn’t work for you, but thanks for sharing your thoughts for the tour!

  11. Anita Yancey says:

    I enjoyed your review, but I’m sorry that you didn’t like the book. I would love to read it, I think the characters do sound interesting and very colorful. Thanks for this chance to win it.

  12. Maria Behar says:

    You have some excellent reasons for not liking this book. Although I myself loved it, I can see where you’re coming from. One thing I didn’t particularly like was the way Adelaide Roman was portrayed; she comes across as more of a stereotype.

    Everyone does agree that the writing is exquisitely beautiful, though. I can honestly say that I’ve read few books written in such a gorgeous prose style.

    Thanks for your honest review! 🙂

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