On a clear and all together normal March evening in 1944, a baby was born to Viviane Lavender. The child was a healthy, normal newborn girl in all ways except one – the decidedly unusual pair of brown, speckled wings growing from her back. Leslye Walton’s debut novel The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender tells the story of the winged girl, Ava Lavender, by way of her ancestors who had equally strange events surround them. Walton’s novel is a tapestry of family history woven with magical realism.
The story really begins with Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne Adou Solange Roux born in 1904 to affable phrenologist, Beauregard Roux who moved Emilienne, her mother and her three siblings to Manhatine (Manhattan) from their small village in France when she was eight years old. Over the years, tragedy befalls nearly every member of the Roux family, leaving only Emilienne. Locking her heart away, she moves from Manhattan to Seattle with a husband she’s promised never to love and a child on the way (Ava’s mother, Viviane).
Viviane shares in her own set of sorrows, spending most of her life in love with a man who will never love her back and finally, there’s Ava herself – the girl with wings who just wants to be normal.
Walton handles the remarkable task of telling nearly five decades of story, without the book ever becoming sluggish. I very much enjoyed her prose; it was rich and lyrical and immediately pulled me into the book. I also appreciated that Walton allowed the book to get dark in some places. I thought some of the more violent scenes juxtaposed well with the magical elements and prevented it from becoming too fairy tale-like. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is an impressive first effort from Walton – I’ll definitely be looking out for her next book.
Prefer your science fiction/fantasy novels to lean more toward sci-fi? Try The Haven by Carol Lynch Williams.
Want an extra dash of fairy tale? Try Daughter of the Forest by Juliet Marillier.