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I was moved by the beauty and magic of this novel. I had to remind myself this is a young adult novel and honestly I’m convinced this may find its home amongst other greats such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Song of Solomon. Magical realism is a non-genre that grants literary clout but also gives us a new view of the world that is delicious as the baked goods the women of the family create in their bakery. The promised tragedy hinted throughout the book is brutal; a comparison to Lovely Bones can be a helpful guide for potential readers. Oh, yes did I forget to mention our protagonist Ava has wings? Her family’s story does little to explain this but it does illuminate the magic, mystery, and tragedy of love. Is it a blessing or a curse? Can we protect our loved ones from the world or does it simply seal their fate? --Renee, Books Inc. in the Castro
Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga.
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 naive 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.
About the Author
Leslye Walton says that The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender began as a short story that came to her while listening to a song. She has an MA in writing, and this is her first novel. Walton is a native of Tacoma, Washington, and she currently teaches middle school in Seattle.
Praise for The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender…
[A]n entrancing and sumptuously written multigenerational novel wrapped in the language of fable, magical realism, and local legend. ... Walton's novel builds to a brutal but triumphant conclusion. It's a story that adults and teenagers can appreciate equally.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Walton’s novel is both strange and beautiful in the best of ways. ... This multigenerational tale examines love and considers the conflicting facets of loving and being loved -- desire, despair, depression, obsession, self-love, and courage. ... It is beautifully crafted and paced, mystical yet grounded by universal themes and sympathetic characters. A unique book, highly recommended for readers looking for something a step away from ordinary.
—School Library Journal (starred review)
This love story by debut YA author Leslye Walton is as rare and perfect as Mona Lisa’s smile.
—Ellen Klein, Hooray for Books! (Alexandria, VA)
It is just as the title suggests, both strange and beautiful, and should be read by every lover of books, regardless of their age.
—Becky Quiroga Curtis, Books & Books (Coral Gables, FL)
This remarkable, magic-laced family history continues and spreads to other members of Ava’s Seattle neighborhood to produce a gauzy narrative of love and loss... [An] intentionally artful tale.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books
This magical lyrical story is a beautifully written novel with much to offer readers. ... Exquisite.
—Library Media Connection
[Ava's voice] is a beautiful voice—poetic, witty, and as honest as family mythology will allow. There are many sorrows in Walton’s debut, and most of them are Ava’s through inheritance. Readers should prepare themselves for a tale where myth and reality, lust and love, the corporal and the ghostly, are interchangeable and surprising.
The story’s language is gorgeous.
In a sweeping intergenerational story infused with magical realism, debut author Leslye Walton tethers grand themes of love and loss to the earthbound sensibility of Ava Lavender as she recollects one life-altering summer as a teenager. ... Walton presents challenges that most teens will hopefully never face. She writes of love, betrayal, birth, murder, affection and rape--and wraps them in prose so radiant that readers feel carried by Ava's narrative. The heroine's humor and wisdom as she looks back at her life let us know that she is a survivor.
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)
This. Book. Stole. Our. Hearts. It unfolds like a hauntingly beautiful dream (or is it a gorgeous nightmare?)... Strange and beautiful... violent and gorgeous. You gotta read it. A must-read for fans of beautiful monsters like Miss Peregrine's.
Using detailed imagery and an almost mythical storytelling style, teenage Ava tells the history of four generations of her family. ... [Teens] willing to enter Ava’s world on its own terms will find themselves richly rewarded.
[Ava] navigates through her family’s history—along with her own—with a lyrical prose that maintains a whimsical and traditional fairy tale feel despite the sorrowful themes. ... Overall, I’m both impressed and dazzled by Leslye Walton’s debut. "The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender" is a novel that has so many layers that it demands your attention. Written with the finesse of a seasoned writer, it’s stunning, magical, strange and, of course, very beautiful.
First-time novelist Leslye Walton has crafted a beautiful, haunting family history that spans generations and continents. The story’s narrator, Ava, is achingly believable. ... "The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender" is not a typical love story. Walton’s tale, by turns tragic and comic, expects readers to explore the big questions love raises — why do we love the people we love, and why do we hold on to love that hurts?
[This novel] should be remembered for the devastatingly beautiful character of Ava Lavender and how she depicts just what it is to be different.
Foolish love and flight are Ava's family inheritance. Magical realism colors this tale of a girl normal but for the wings with which she was born.
—San Francisco Chronicle
The characters are rich and familiar, and Walton does whimsy with a healthy dose of melancholy and tragedy. The storytelling is completely beautiful... A particularly toothsome and pleasurable read.
—Toronto Globe and Mail