I’ve been hesitant in writing this review and stalled for several days after finishing this book because I’ve been feeling so conflicted about what to say. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a piece of work unlike anything else of ever read; and no other book has depicted the themes of love and love lost as beautifully and realistically as this does. But first, let me start at the beginning.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender starts with a note from an older Ava Lavender in 2014, who explains that this book is her retelling of her life in the 1940s. After that, we see hardly any of this Ava, as the book is entirely her past. The first part of the book follows Emilenne, Ava’s grandmother, and her tragic story of love, and later Viviane, Ava’s mother. However, it is only when Ava comes into the picture that the story takes off. Born with the wings of a bird, she is shut off from the outside world, and we see the story of how she lived in those 15 years, and how her family dealt with the ghosts of their pasts.
Walton crafts an exquisite tale that transcends generations, as this book is not only about Ava, but her mother and grandmother as well, and their stories, which involve immense amounts of love and heartbreak. Every character is beautifully written and three-dimensional, which is a great feat considering the wide cast of characters this book contains.
The writing has a beautiful feel to it, almost like reading a piece of poetry, and it hooks you in, even if the plot is not particularly interesting at that moment. I read the entirety of this book for the writing alone, because although the plot was great, it was a different kind of story, one that I’m not used to reading. Typically, I’m also not a big fan of family-oriented novels, as the drama and petty disagreements they so often contain irritate me, but TSABSOAL pulls it off, creating sympathy in us for almost every character. The way this book is written was what stuck with me, more than anything else.
This book, although it is categorized as fantasy, reads much like historical or realistic fiction, albeit one with fantasy elements that remain enigmatic and unexplained. I also would have liked to see more of the older version of Ava, that one that is narrating the entire book, but although the lack of explanations threw me off for a bit, the fact that we don’t get answers to everything is part of this book’s charm; when the mystery is gone, so is the magic.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a different kind of novel, there is no other book to truly compare it to. I do recommend this book for those who want a different reading experience, but it’s not for everyone. However, if you have an open mind, and an open heart, take a stab at this for a story like no other.
I would like to share one quote with you; one that captures the essence of this novel. Only once you read this book, will you truly understand what it means.
“Love makes us such fools.”