Saturday, July 26, 2014

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

Largely devoted to tracing several generations of the Roux-Lavender family and the people who crossed paths with them, Strange and Beautiful Sorrows is an extraordinary fable.   It begins by telling us how Ava was born an otherwise normal girl except for the wings on her back, while her twin brother Henry was born mute, and then the story goes back three generations.  Starting with the family's departure from the Old Country, Walton weaves in glorious detail the near entire back story to Ava and Henry's existence.

Ostensibly a story about the "price" of love, I never really felt that the novel made whatever point it wanted to make.  But I also didn't care. The writing is clearly from the school of "magical realism" and was reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's classic One Hundred Years of Solitude.  Like that novel, Walton has created a richly detailed cultural landscape that is a joy to dive into.  The complicated web of relationships between the dozens of vivid and memorable characters and the events that occur to them makes this a pleasure to read.

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