Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

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

Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Published by Candlewick on March 25, 2014
Genres: Historical, Magical Realism, Romance
Pages: 320
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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four-stars

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 love affair with magical realism continues. There is just something that’s more fantastical about the real world we live in being filled with these odd strains of magic than the most epic of fantasy worlds. Magical realism sends my mind into paroxysms of joy and imagination. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is very much what its title says it will be: strange, a bit sorrowful, and immensely beautiful.

Most of the time, I’m a character-focused reader. If I’m not bonded strongly with the characters, I’m generally not going to care that much what’s happening. Every so often though, either the writing or a mind-blowingly clever plot will draw me in and engage me almost as much as character can. That is what happened with Leslye Walton’s gorgeous prose. Her writing charmed me immediately, complex, full of scintillating vocabulary, and perfectly matched with the tale being told.

Walton’s tale is, admittedly, a strange one. Magical realism is often pretty light, with just one or two small elements, but Walton’s world is quite magical. See, it all centers on Ava Lavender’s family tree, which consists of oddly remarkable people. One of her ancestors turned into a canary and another has an absurdly powerful sense of smell, so much so that she can even smell emotions. Ava herself is born with a pair of wings. Probably you can tell if magical realism is your thing or not. Either you will be frustrated because none of this is explained or you’ll want to imagine that such things could happen in the world you live in.

The narrative itself is odd as well, all told in the first person as though Ava is looking back on her life and telling the reader what happened. What makes this odd is that Ava knows about things she couldn’t possibly have known about, which is another sort of strange magic to the tale. To talk about herself, Ava goes back to her greatgrandmother and works down through the family tree.

Much of the novel is spent talking about Ava’s mother, possibly even more time than is spent on Ava. The blurb makes the book sound like it centers on Ava, and it both does and doesn’t. I get why they did that (to market more directly to YA audiences), but it’s certainly misleading. Everyone in the family is equally interesting to me, though, so I didn’t mind jumping from character to character.

In fact, I think what happened in some of Ava’s plot line is probably the only thing that left me cold. Her story with Nathaniel Summers was uncomfortable, and not necessarily in a good way. However, I really loved everything else, wanting to absorb the beauty of the book into myself. Also, both Ava and Viviane’s ships are completely adorable slow burns with guys who do not fit the typical love interest stereotypes.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender will likely appeal to those who enjoyed the films Big FishPractical Magic, or Chocolat. I hate comparison marketing, but I was thinking of all three and comparisons can be helpful if they’re true. So I just hope you all don’t think I’m bonkers.

Favorite Quote:

“The point is, if I cared what everyone else th-thought, I’d see myself as p-pitiful, but I don’t.” He smiled. “I think I’m pretty cool.”

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

beautiful scene Big Fish

9 responses to “Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender”

  1. I’m getting to appreciate the slow burn more and more. Add in some magical realism and beautiful writing (and a gorgeous cover) and I think this might just hit the spot!
    Mary @ BookSwarm recently posted…Top Off Tuesday: Save me from the flesh-eating hordesMy Profile

  2. Meg says:

    Yessssss. I wanted this to live up to it’s cover.

    Yessssss. Girl with wings. (Shouldn’t be a surprise bc it’s in the blurb but hey, my memory is on a similar level of non-existence to yours.)

    Yessssss. Magical realism: because sometimes explanations just get in the way.

    Yessssss. Chocolat and Practical Magic (not poo-pooing Big Fish, I love what I’ve seen of it, but for some reason, every one of the three times I’ve tried to watch it, I’ve fallen asleep pretty quickly)

    Yessssss. I’m going to read this book.

  3. Everything that Meg said above is essentially what I was going to say. Chocolat and Practical Magic were both amazing adaptations in my opinion.

    I don’t know if you’ve seen the article that was posted in Shelf Awareness in regards to this book but I’ll link you to it.
    http://www.shelf-awareness.com/max-issue.html?issue=91
    Lisa (Fic Talk) recently posted…Comment on Blog Tour: Dancing on Air by Nicole Hurley-Moore by My Family’s Heart Book Reviews & ToursMy Profile

  4. I’m 50% finished with this book, and I’ve found that while I’m not itching to get back to it, every time I pick it up, I slide right back into that lovely prose you’re talking about. There’s something quietly captivating about this book, and even though I just met Ava (she’s still two where I’m at), I’m really excited to see her side of the story.

    And THANK YOU for finally telling me what genre this is – I’ve never heard the term magical realism before this. I actually kind of like it 😀
    Kayla @ The Thousand Lives recently posted…Top Ten Books in the Sci-fi GenreMy Profile

  5. We were same day review buddies with this one! My thoughts overall are very similar to yours. I like magical realism, so it worked well for me. When I hear the term “magical realism,” though, my brain’s basically been taught to think of Latin American stories. But Big Fish and Chocolat are definitely apt comparisons to make here.
    Oh yes that whole subplot revolving around Nathaniel Sorrows was icky. But I did love basically everything else, especially the glimpses that we were able to get of Ava’s, Vivian’s, and Emilienne’s lives.
    Amanda @ Late Nights with Good Books recently posted…Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott LynchMy Profile

  6. I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Christina:) I have it to read still and have been wanting some feedback before starting. I only skimmed your review but it seems positive on the whole which is great–I’m a big fan of magical realism as well and I’m happy this one seems to be all it’s cracked up to be.
    Heather@The Flyleaf Review recently posted…So They Say It’s Your Birthday…Marlene’s Birthday = GIVEAWAY Time 🙂My Profile

  7. Bonnie says:

    Magical realism is so fantastic if well done and I really love the sound of this one. I’m a total sucker for that cover but am glad that’s not the only thing this book has going for it. Practical Magic and Chocolat are a few of my favorite movies… on the list this goes.
    Bonnie recently posted…Book Review – Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh MafiMy Profile

  8. Sarah J says:

    Yay! Another person who enjoyed this novel. I haven’t been seeing to many people read this and it’s unfortunate because I thought it was a wonderful novel. I noticed something when reading and thought it was really ironic. The title has the word sorrow in it and the man that harmed Ava was named Nathaniel Sorrows. I thought it was interesting. It probably means nothing but I think it implies that Sorrows caused her sorrows.
    Sarah J recently posted…The Winner’s Curse by Marie RutkoskiMy Profile

  9. […] never entirely sure where it was headed or, more importantly, why it was headed that way.” A Reader of Fictions – “In fact, I think what happened in some of Ava’s plot line is probably the only […]

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