The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Date Published: March 25, 2014
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.
I don’t know about most of you, but I don’t get a lot of longer stretches of time to read. I have three little kids and so any reading time is come by in short bursts. Fifteen minutes while I’m waiting for the bus, after I get them down for bed at night, things like that. And for most books, that’s fine. I can hop in and out of them without any trouble. When I tried to do that with this book though, I was struggling. That’s because it’s not an easy book. It’s a great book, and so very well written but the writing style doesn’t lend itself to a casual read. You have to concentrate. Every sentence means something, words are chosen so carefully for the images they convey. So it took me a little longer to get through this because I had to wait for times when I could concentrate.
I don’t want to give away the plot too much, so I’m not going to go over too much of it. This book was written as the story of Ava Lavender, but much of the beginning of it was dedicated to her family’s history. Even though this part of the book was important for the story, it was hard for me to connect with. It covers the family’s move from Europe to America and their life there. The book was much more interesting for me once it got to Ava’s birth and life. Ava is born with wings. There was nothing to indicate that she wouldn’t be a normal baby, and when she was born the doctors were unsure of what to do with her. Her mother also didn’t know that she was going to have twins and was very surprised when Ava’s brother, Henry, was born as well. The book after their birth is centered around the little town where they live and their lives confined to their house on the hill. Much of the action of the story occurs once Ava decides to start leaving the house to see more of the world and what being a normal girl is all about.
What I Loved
1. The imagery: This book is filled with beautiful, lyrical writing. You can see the town where they live, the house on top of the hill they live in. You can picture Ava’s wings so perfectly because the writing leads you to see it. The author has a wonderful writing style that is almost like reading poetry.
2. The bakery: Much of the book is tied together through the food of the bakery. There are strong French influences throughout, but you can see it most in the knowledge of the pastries, the breads, and all of the different food that Emmiliene cooks in her bakery. Different things are cooked for different reasons, and you can almost taste all the magical things she bakes as you read it.
3. Love: This is a book about love in all its forms. Romantic love, love between friends, between siblings and between parents and children. It’s about the love a boy has for a pet, and the love that a parent has for a child, even when the child is grown. It’s about the fear of falling in love after pain and loss, and how your life is worse because of that fear. It’s wonderful, and even if you’ve never been in love, there is a lot for everyone to identify with.
4. The magical realism: Leslye Walton writes so well that you don’t even question how the magic fits into and is weaved into the regular world around them.
What Bothered Me
Not a whole lot! The beginning of the book was hard for me to connect with. It was a little drier, a little harder for me to lose myself in. Once Ava’s story started, I was immediately drawn in. And the beginning of the book is very necessary for the story, it just wasn’t as interesting for me personally.
If you love beautiful writing and an engrossing story, you should check it out! You won’t regret it.