The Strange and Beautiful  Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What this book is about:

Ava Lavender is a girl born with wings and there is nothing usual about her life or that of her mother and grandmother for that matter. The Lavender family has always had trouble in the field of love. Emilienne, the grandmother, has lost everyone that she ever loved and she has become scared to love again. Viviane, the mother, has had her own grand heartache and Ava..well Ava, as I said, is born with wings!

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This is a truly magical story of not just one girl but of a community, of many families and of many different individuals. We begin our journey, because this is indeed a journey for the reader, by following young Emilienne whose father has decided to move her and her siblings from France to Manhatine. After Emiliene’s story, we continue following her daughter, Viviane who falls in love with a boy trying to be better than his father. Finally, Vivianne gives birth to twins Ava and
Henry and both children turn out to be very special like the rest of the family. While watching the story of the three ladies unfold, we are also given a broad glimpse of the small community they live in. Every paragraph of this book is used as a thread to a bigger and more complicated design that comes together in the end. The idea of the book reminded me of J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy mainly due to its community feel and the different stories of various people leading to a grand finale.

Love makes us such fools.

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Even though this is considered a young adult book, to me it felt more as a historical fiction novel with the story taking place from around the 1920’s and well into the 1950’s. The writing style is so lyrical and creates such a magical ambiance that it feels like you are reading a fairy tale. People who love, obsess, lie to themselves, try to survive and to overcome their pasts, living in their haunted present. This book crawled in my skin and will now stay with me for a long time.

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Just because love don’t look the way you think it should, don’t mean you don’t have it.

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Resembling real life, after following the grandmother for some time, she steps into the background and gives space to her daughter so she can tell her story who then gives her turn to her daughter Ava. This is so realistic and kind of scary at the same time. Our grandmothers were young once and they had a life of their own. They had to make ends meet,a job where they went to daily and people they spoke to often. They also loved and had flirtations. But now they have stepped aside. Their stories are not so prominent anymore, they are not so real. They seem so far away as if they never existed. Our lives are the stars of the show now, our problems are what matters, our daily struggles, loves and heartaches dominate our mind’s worries. And this is exactly what happened with Ava’s grandmother and mother.

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Children betrayed their parents by becoming their own people

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I don’t know what more to say about this book. Should I praise the gorgeous cover and the beautiful pages (you know how sometimes books use horrible fonts or how sometimes books decorate their pages with tiny details that just add so much to it?)? Should I talk about the finely crafted characters and small, maybe even irrelevant stories that (I will use the same verb again) decorated the whole story? How is anyone supposed to talk about the strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava and her family? This was such a magical read.

I found it ironic that I should be blessed with wings and yet feel so constrained, so trapped. It was because of my condition, I believe, that I noticed life’s ironies a bit more often than the average person. I collected them: how love arrived when you least expected it, how someone who said he didn’t want to hurt you eventually would.

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Have you watched the movie Big Fish? This book had the same kind of feel like that movie due to its magical realism themes. Magical realism in books is used when fantastical elements are added to an otherwise normal, real-life story and these elements are integrated into the story in a way that makes you wonder if things are indeed real or just a fancy analogy made by the author. For example, here we have a girl born with wings which is, by itself, a magical realism element. So if you enjoyed Big Fish with the playful, magical but also tragic at times ambiance, then I think you will have a really nice time reading this book. If you’ve never read a magical realism book before and you are not sure whether you will actually enjoy it, this is a great book to start with. It was my first book of this kind and it definitely encouraged me to pick up not only more magical realism novels but also more historical fiction novels. Good job Leslye Walton, thank you! Even if you don’t particularly read YA literature, just give this book a try. It’s not for everyone but I just can’t not recommend it to anyone!P1030424

 

Have you read this book and if so did you like it? Do you generally enjoy magical realism in novels?

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The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava Lavender

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