The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton / ★★★★★
Summary: Ava Lavender was born with wings. 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.
And that might just be the root of the problem: we’re all afraid of each other, wings or no wings.
Genre: Magical realism
I found this book surprisingly enrapturing. I enjoy magical realism, but I always find myself a bit wary of it- and this book slowly sucked me in. The story is narrated by Ava Lavender herself as she goes back and gives us the history of her grandmother and her mother’s lives before revealing any of her own. It took me a bit to get into it, but once I was, this book was hard to put down.
Even though I was slow to get into it, once I began to get a feel for the storytelling and the characters, I very quickly became invested. I loved the aura of history at the beginning, and once we got to know more about Ava’s grandmother I quickly grew attached, even though I wasn’t exactly sure where the story was going. This story is very emotionally charged- by the time we reached the story of Ava’s mother, Vivien, we see that there is a balance between the character’s own choices and this concept of fate that they believe they are dictated by. This book is very character driven, with stark limitations at times.
Ava herself was a soft, yet determined and curious person. Her story is indeed strange and sorrowful, and quite brutal. This book is whimsical, but it also has violence, and in the case of Ava we experience through the lens of magical realism what it means for her to have her wings and how people treat her because of them. I thought it was beautifully done.
As magical realism generally is, this book was strange and uncomfortable at times with touches of humor and whimsy. But it’s beauty stood out in all of that, because Walton seemed to write her words with a kind of delicacy that softened the harshness of the story. This book was beautifully written. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was a very beautiful, sad, and enjoyable book and a great piece of magical realism.