Distiller: Hikari Loftus
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
by Leslye Walton
Candlewick (March 25, 2014)
I'm going to go ahead and make a bold statement here and say that while The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is not exactly the best book I've read all year, it is my favorite book this year. Does that makes sense?
Ava Lavender was born on March 1, 1944. Born to Viviane Lavender (and Jack Griffiths), daughter of Emilienne Lavender (and Connor Lavender) daughter of Beauregard Roux and Maman.
Ava and her twin brother, Henry, are both born peculiar. This is not exactly a surprise as it is not uncommon for peculiarities in her family line. It's just that what makes Ava different is so easy for everyone to see. You see, Ava was born with wings.
This book is really a compilation of Ava's family history, and while Ava narrates, we begin with the tale of her great-grandparents and the life of her grandmother, Emilienne. This history details Emilienne's life up to the birth of her daughter Viviane and the unfortunately passing of her husband Connor. The story then details the birth and life of Viviane, Ava's mother, up until the time of Ava's birth (and the disappearance of the man who is her father but does not know it.)
Then we pick up with Ava and the extraordinary story of a girl, who is really just a girl, besides the fact that she has wings.
This story is not really a happy story. It's so full of sorrow. It's also a bit gruesome. But I was so engrossed, so completely pulled into the story and the beautiful writing (and beautiful names!) that I could not stop reading until I finished. (only took me one day)
While Ava and her family live in a world that we are familiar with, they possess qualities and abilities that are fantastical. (Magical realism, I believe this is called) I know that some people have been confused as to how to classify this book because of that, but I think Walton rides the line between fantasy fiction and fiction beautifully. It didn't bother me in the slightest.
Now, there was one story line in the middle of all these other stories that confused me. The story of the girl, Fatima Ines, who once lived in the house that Ava's family now lives in. That girl, too, seemed to possess special abilities and seemed to be important to the story, even though I never got around to understanding why. She popped up a lot for someone with no real purpose. You could have taken her right out and the story wouldn't have changed a bit. It makes me feel like I was missing something deeper, some clue as to why she was there, or why her story was important. They did seem to have a connection with birds, but even still, I don't get it. (can you tell that it's bothering me? ha)
The characters in this story were so beautifully developed. By the time we got to Ava's story, I felt so connected and close with the characters. We had, after all, read about their lives and feelings since birth in the pages previous to Ava. I loved the way the history was written out. It was beautiful, captivating, gruesome, and heartbreaking.
But really, this story isn't about a girl with wings. It's about Love. It's about what Love can make us and how it can change us. It's about the loss of Love and the devastating repercussions. Most of all, it's about learning how to love again, even after the loss of love inflicted the deepest of sorrows.
I've read so many good books this year, but for some reason, this one just hit the spot in a way that none other has this year. It's definitely my favorite book this year and it's one I'll definitely add to my collection. (you see, I only buy the books I love the very best, since buying a book means it automatically becomes part of my family.)
It was hard to pick a drink for this book, because in terms of refreshment, this book is about delicious bread and French desserts. (this one puts the French desserts in Anna and the French Kiss to shame.) I tried to go a couple of ways here (drinks paired with French desserts, popular French drinks, etc. etc) but I finally settled on just plain water. Mostly it was because that is what birds drink, but then again because everything happens when the rain begins...