Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Title: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Author: Leslye Walton

Page Numbers: 301

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is as the title promises – both strange and beautiful. Ava is the narrator, beginning with her grandmother’s birth and subsequent immigration with her parents and 3 siblings to the US at the turn of the century. What follows is a sorrowful tale where Ava’s grandmother and great aunts and uncle are all incredibly unlucky in both love and life, and Ava’s grandmother vows never to let love pierce her heart again.

Ava’s mother also learns the same lesson at a young age; a brief encounter with her young love results in the birth of twins. Strange, silent Henry, and Ava, a girl born with the feathered wings of a bird. Ava and her brother are kept separate from the outside world, sequestered in the family home on the hill, where Ava watches the world go by. Her story is one of isolation; her grandmother and her mother are both steadfast in their resolve to not let love in, lest it hurt too much, and so Ava and her brother grow up with attention but not so much in the way of affection. Her only friend is the neighbour’s daughter, who dares her to try to fly, in more ways than one. As the years pass, Ava grows close with the brother of her friend, and the three of them venture out into the world to participate in normal teenage events. It’s on one of these outings that Ava stumbles across a man who will change her life in horrible, unspeakable ways.

The story of Ava and her unusual family is beautifully told, using lyrical prose and gorgeous descriptions. The ending is left ambiguous; you’re uncertain as to the exact events, but left with a sense of hope, that perhaps her life will no longer be so sorrowful. Ava and her mother both learn lessons about love and the futility of holding on to things you shouldn’t for far too long. Overall, it’s a beautiful, magical tale that will stay with you long after you’ve finished

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