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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender Hardcover – March 25, 2014


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763665665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763665661
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,714 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 9 Up—Walton's novel is both strange and beautiful in the best of ways. Though the titular Ava serves as narrator and ultimately the tale's heroine, her story spans multiple generations, starting with her great-grandmother, remembered only as Maman, an immigrant to "Manhatine" two generations earlier. Through the eyes of her grandmother Emilienne, and then her mother Vivianne, Ava's lineage unfolds. Emilienne, suffering a broken heart, leaves New York and travels to Seattle, where she sets up shop as a baker on Pinnacle Lane. She gives birth to Vivianne, Ava's mother, who later suffers her own heartbreak and gives birth to Ava in 1944. Ava is a normal girl with one notable exception: she was born with the wings of a bird. Ava looks to the stories of her matriarchs to make sense of her own life and to understand how to navigate the world as both an "other" and a typical teenage girl. It is not until a fateful day in her 16th year that many narrative threads come to a head. This multigenerational tale examines love and considers the conflicting facets of loving and being loved--desire, despair, depression, obsession, self-love, and courage. Difficult to categorize, this is a mystical tale, a historical novel, a coming-of-age story, laced with folkloric qualities and magic realism, often evocative of great narratives like Erin Morgenstern's transcendent The Night Circus (Doubleday, 2011) or the classic Like Water for Chocolate (Anchor, 1995) by Laura Esquivel. 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.—Jill Heritage Maza, Montclair Kimberley Academy, Montclair, NJ

From Booklist

Ava Lavender, a typical girl in every respect except for the fact that she was born with wings, sits upon a family tree of doomed lovers. Her great-grandfather, her grandmother, her aunts and uncles, and her mother were either unlucky or foolish in matters of the heart. Family stories have become local legend, and Ava must explore them all to discover the two questions that haunt her: Where did I come from? . . . What would the world do with a girl such as I? What the world eventually does is to foist itself rather viciously on her. Ava is alternately shaped and trapped by her family’s saga, and her voice at times gets lost in the telling. But it 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. Grades 9-12. --Kara Dean

Customer Reviews

A beautiful story, well written and great characters.
AMK
Leslye Walton writes a family story full of love and magic in THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER.
Teen Reads
The ending of the book was beautiful, and every moment in between is also equally beautiful and yet sad.
Meg Alexandra

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Jamie on April 11, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Why I chose this book:
Honestly, I knew nothing about this book before I opened the cover. Even after reading the synopsis, I couldn't tell you what it was about. I had no clue why I wanted to read it so badly, but I did. So, I filled out a purchase request at the library, and when it came in--slightly before the release date--I had to sneak a peek. And I almost couldn't put it down.

4 Things You Should Know:

1. This is not your grandma's love story.
Ava may be the main character, but the book is about more than just her. The women of the Roux family have a long and sorrowful history of ill-fated love, which Ava catalogues faithfully, beginning with her great-grandmother. Told from Ava’s contemporary point-of-view, she chronicles the lives and deaths of her ancestors, as well as the peculiarly tragic ways in which love made fools of them. Ava herself does not reach the story of her own life until the middle of the book. When I encounter a novel like this, one that reaches far back into the ancestral well of despair, I usually grumble, sigh, and settle in for the ride, prepared to make the requisite investment in past lives and hoping the payoff at the end will be worth it. However, this was not the case. At all. I was as riveted by the three previous generations of Roux women as I was by Ava herself. Each character was so carefully recorded, each taking turns in the spot-light, that my heart was breaking alongside of theirs at every turn of the page.

2. Is this real life?
Magical realism--the straight-faced portrayal of events and circumstances so obviously otherworldly--is one of my favorite literary devices, and Walton folds magic into her prose so beautifully, I never question the little oddities that plague the Roux family.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By NotebookSisters on April 9, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
Yes, I've given this a low star-rating. Yes, I'm also horrified. Yes, I'm also mostly alone in my feelings of this book (it has a 4.10 average star rating on Goodreads!). And no, I will not be saying the title five times fast while I turn in a circle and pat my head. (But YOU can try it if you like.)

The ugly truth is: this book just didn't click with me.

And I wanted to like it! I really, really did! I'm utterly in love with the cover and the title. (Ava Lavender?! Isn't that just the most gorgeous name ever?!) It comes out in late March, but I read it on the 3rd of February because I was so excited for it.

Writing? Personally, I felt it was written like a very beautiful text book. History. There's hardly any scenes, hardly any dialogue. The first 120 pages are before Ava is even born! That's nearly HALF the book. It's not just about Ava Lavender (and this is where I get annoyed at the blurb, because it really tells you nothing about the book): it's about Ava's whole family history. Which is...interesting. But mildly boring.

I like scenes and dialogue and character-driven plots. This didn't have any of that.

It's all very tragic and beautiful though. I love the flow of the prose. It feels lyrical, definitely. The description really pops. They don't just say "cake" they say "butterscotch brownies". Every word feels well thought-out.

I was just so bored while I was appreciating the gorgeousness.

The names are fabulous! Some authors are just blessed with the ability to give the best names. Not only do we have Ava Lavender, we have Laura Lovelorn, Cardigan Cooper, Marigold Pie, Beauregard Roux, Viviane Lavender (that's Ava's mother) and Emilienne Roux. I lovelovelove it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By E. M. Bristol VINE VOICE on April 8, 2014
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Born with wings but doomed (seemingly) to a grounded life, Ava Lavender is kept secluded in her Seattle home by a mother with a thousand excuses as to why it's safer this way. Without much in the way of external stimulation, her thoughts turn toward her ancestors and how their peculiarities might have wound up producing a girl like her. "The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender" is the story of her family, a truly odd clan, who emigrated from a small French village. Her great-grandfather, Beauregard Roux, brought his three daughters and one son to a place he called "Manhatine," which turned out to be not nearly as wonderful as expected. Peculiar things began happening to the family, including one transforming herself into a canary. Later, their ghosts would return to haunt Ava's mother, Viviane, and her grandmother, Emilienne, and play a crucial role when Ava, as a young woman, suffers a gruesome tragedy.

This book and its magic realism reminded me strongly of Alice Hoffman's novels, particularly "Practical Magic." The two both involve several generations of women who deal with local prejudice that they may be witches, and who, unable to rely on the rather feckless men in their lives, manage to earn their own living. In this case, the Lavender clan, with the help of another woman, begin and run a highly successful bakery. Still, there are dangers awaiting their family that only their son, absorbed in a world of his own, realize. When Ava, with the help of a girlfriend and her older brother, eventually begins to venture out into the world, as she grows up, she revels in her newfound freedom, but is unaware of a threat close to home.
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