The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender - Leslye Walton

I love magical realism. Skellig by David Almond is a personal favourite, but Leslye Walton's book is competing for that number one spot!
As soon as I was born, the nurses whisked me away from the delivery room to explore a matter that was later described on an anonymous medical report only as a slight physical abnormality. It wasn't long before the devout gathered in the light from the hospital windows, carrying candles and singing hymns in praise and fear. All because when I was born, I opened my eyes, then unfolded the pair of speckled wings that wrapped around me like a feathery cocoon. 
Or so the story goes.
So marks the beginning of the history of Ava Lavender and her predecessors. The story begins with an address from Ava, but soon moves backwards in time to a retelling of her earlier ancestors, Emilienne (her grandmother), and Viviane (her mother). Each of these earlier tales explores the notion of love and family, woven together with elements of timelessness and magic. Within the overall story arc, there are people who disappear, some who shape-shift, and yet others who simply try to live life, but who are ill-prepared to do so.

Emilienne experiences so much heartbreak that the reader cannot help but want to reach into the pages to comfort her. Viviane is lovesick to the point where she fails to see the love that is right in front of her. Ava is incredibly unique as a character, not only for her physical differences, but also for her character development. She is naive, but also strong in spirit. 

Gorgeous prose fill this book with life and give evidence to Walton's love for her subject and for the work that she has put into this memoir-style text.
I've been told things happen as they should: My grandmother fell in love three times before her nineteenth birthday. My mother found love with the neighbor boy when she was six. And I, I was born with wings, a misfit who didn't dare to expect anything as grandiose as love. It's our fate, our destiny, that determines such things, isn't it?
Be prepared for a family history. This book is not just about Ava Lavender, even though much of it is. It is about her family. It is about their tragic past and the history that follows Ava into her own future. The book is not light-hearted, but it is truly beautiful, and Walton's prosaic prowess keep the book from simply turning into a tale of horror and woe. 

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a book that will stick with you, one that will fill you with wonder and empathy. I can't wait to share this book with friends and colleagues!

Highly Recommended

(Note: This review is from an Advanced Reading Copy - Out March 25, 2014)


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