The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
By: Leslye Walton
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.
How to begin with this book, that is the question. Honestly I have no good way of describing it other than just what the title claims. This book is completely beautiful, but mostly strange. As a debut novel, this book is so mind-blowing. Even if this wasn't a debut, it'd still be mind-blowing. This story was so well-crafted and so transformative.
This is going to be a ramble-y review because there is no other way I can think to do it. All the parts of this story, the characters, the writing, the plot, it all ties together perfectly. The symbolism, the characterization, and the tone were all always on point and always so beautiful, and well...strange. What I wasn't expecting was how much this book would cover, how many stories and characters this relatively tiny book could include. This covered the story of Ava's great-grandparents, her grandma and all her siblings, her mother's story, her father's story, Gabe's story, and Ava's own story. I honestly loved the format so much. Every chapter was something new and charming or sad or introspective. I inhaled this book in less than a day because I didn't want to stop reading and learning more about this cast of characters.
With so many characters it's so important that they all play the role they were created to play, that they get across who they are succinctly. That's where the characterization comes into play. Leslye Walton knows just how to teach you about each character in a way that gets you to understand them quickly and thoroughly in a short amount of time.
The language of this book is so evocative and enthralling. Every word, every sentence, every paragraph holds so much importance and so much emotion. There's no let up of beauty, no faltering, and no slowing down. It's full force beauty and emotion and imagery all through the book. I now know that I'll read anything that Leslye Walton writes in the future for sure, because dang. She can write! She handled the magical realism so perfectly. It felt just like magical realism should feel. Whimsical, but gritty and dark.
If you're looking for a book that is utterly unique and firmly emotional, then definitely pick this one up. I highly recommend it.
"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 loves long lost. But I knew the truth - deep down, I always did. I was just a girl."
"Foreseeing the future, I would later learn, means nothing if there is nothing to be done to prevent it."
"Just remember...my heart," she would say, "royal blood flows from our wounds."
"There it was again. Fate. As a child, that word was often my only companion. It whispered to me from dark corners during lonely nights. It was the song of the birds in spring and the call of the wind through bare branches on a cold winter afternoon. Fate. Both my anguish and my solace. My escort and my cage."
"Summer rain smelled like newly clipped grass, like mouths stained red with berry juice - blueberries, raspberries, blackberries. It smelled like late nights spent pointing constellations out from their starry guises, freshly washed laundry drying outside on the line, like barbecues and stolen kisses in a 1932 Ford Coupe."
"And that might just be the root of the problem: we're all afraid of each other, wings or no wings."
"She thought it was unfair that her life should be both irrelevant and difficult. One or the other seemed quite enough."
"They also made her think...of all the scars love's victims carry."