Tuesday, April 1, 2014
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
She begins with in-depth explorations of the women on her maternal side of the family - her great, great grandmother Maman, mother of Emilienne, René, Margaux and Pierette, all born in France on the first of March in 1904, 1905, 1906 and 1907 respectively and all strangely extraordinary in their own way. Moving from France to Manhattan, all except Emilienne died deaths that are just as strangely extraordinary as they are. Their specters, however, will accompany Emilienne throughout her life. Feeling betrayed after she discovers that her fiancé, Satin Lush, has been cheating on her all around town, Emilienne ends up marrying Connor Lavender. The two leave New York and travel to a small neighborhood in Seattle, Washington, where Connor opens a bakery. Their child, Viviane, is born.
The very beautiful Viviane is born with an strong sense of smell that goes beyond the usual. Vivianne can smell things like happiness, sadness, bitterness, broken hearts. At age 7, she meets Jack and the two are inseparable until he goes off to college. She waits for him to come back and he does, but only momentarily, just long enough for Viviane to get pregnant.
And so on March 1, 1944, Ava and her twin brother are born. The two children are sequestered away in the old house on Pinnacle Lane, which just happens to also be haunted. Home schooled by Viviane, Ava watches the world go by from her bedroom window, longing to be part of it. Even Henry, who appears to be autistic, is allowed to wander around with his constant canine companion, Trouver. But when Cardigan and Rowe Cooper move into the house next door, Ava gets a taste of the world beyond the home, sneaking out by climbing the cherry tree outside her window. But, when unusually heavy rains come during the summer solstice when she is 15, Ava accepts the invitation of Nathaniel Sorrow to come in out of the rain, a decision that will change her life forever.
This is such a good book, but there is quite a bit of magical realism throughout it, making this a story that might not appeal to everyone. But if you are someone who does like that particular genre, you will find that The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a beautifully written multigenerational novel about love, loss, betrayal, and redemption by debut author Leslye Walton. The story is told from the perspective a now 70 year old Ava, whose first person prose is often so lyrical, so poetic that you won't want to put it down, even when the story gets emotionally difficult.
This family saga, however, doesn't remain entirely focused on the Ava's family. Indeed, there are side narratives about the young girl, Fatima Inês de Dores, who lived in the house on Pinnacle Lane prior to the Lavenders, and whose ghost remains there. There is also the story of Marigold Pie, Nathaniel Sorrow. But in the end, it all comes together so well and so unpredictably.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is one of the most unique books I have read this year and ironically, I found it to be one of the most difficult to review. It is, however, the kind of story that will stick with you long after you have finished it.
This book is recommended for readers age 16+
This book was received from the by the publisher