The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Watson

Reviewed for this blog by Geri, Ridgefield Library

OK, this one is a dark horse, but sometimes you never see the Printz coming. This is a multi-generational tale filled with magical realism and evocative writing. The Roux family is touched by heartache and magic throughout the four generations we read about in this book. Ava, born in 1944, is the narrator, but the beginning of the book chronicles the lives of her great grandmother (an immigrant living in Manhattan), her grandmother Emilienne who leaves New York with a broken heart and crosses the country to open a bakery in Seattle, and her mother Vivianne whose own heart was broken before she gave birth to Ava. Ava has the wings of a bird, but is otherwise fully human. She is hidden from the world by her family, but when she is 16, she and the world are forced to confront each other and things get scary and messy. This is Walton’s debut and it is stunning. She opens a door into human nature and allows readers to view heartbreak, longing, prejudice, fear, compassion, and love. She incorporates magic into the tale in a fully believable way. There are ghosts and people with super-human abilities and fantastical demises, but you accept them at face value. They simply fit into the tale seamlessly. Walton’s narrative is reminiscent of Alice Hoffman or Laura Esquivel or Erin Morgenstern, but her deft writing and ability to captivate are completely her own. Who knows if this is even on the Printz committee’s radar, but I think it deserves some love.

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2 thoughts on “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Watson

  1. andreaingala Post author

    Geri, I LOVED this book! And I think you are absolutely right – it’s a dark horse but a strong contender. Not tons of press but magical, mysterious, completely engrossing writing. Would love to see it get recognized.

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