“Fate. As a child, that word was often my only companion. It whispered to me from dark corners during lonely nights. It was the song of the birds in spring and the call of the wind through bare branches on a cold winter afternoon. Fate. Both my anguish and my solace. My escort and my cage.”
Our narrator is Ava Lavender, daughter of heartbroken Viviane Lavender and granddaughter of mysterious Emilienne Roux. Born with an angel’s wings and locked away in her haunted home to keep from the prying eyes of the worshipping public, she recounts the lives and loves of her family over time. Beginning in France when her family first made the journey to America, by the time we catch up with Ava’s timeline she is a familiar and endearing voice. She has an omniscient presence and feels wiser than her years.
Every character is full of personal quirks and intricacies, even down to minor players like Jack’s father. The Roux women, especially, are well-rounded and intriguing; I was constantly trying to figure out Emilienne. THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER is a story directed by the characters and the way their lives are woven together by fate and love. There is a subtle and slow climax built for the finale after we finally meet Ava, but the majority of the book is spent leading us through the years to this exact moment in time. I loved that the novel is ultimately about Ava, but pays a lot of attention and respect to where she came from and her upbringing.
The ending broke my heart then fixed it again. I could sense that something foreboding was coming, but never managed to put my finger on exactly what. This creeping build-up suits the style of the novel perfectly, for me, but if you prefer plot-driven prose then it might not be for you. AVA LAVENDER is all about the investment in the stories and emotions of the characters, and I’m just happy to have been taken along for the ride.
One of the many things I loved about this book was the very realistic way Ava’s stories were brought to life. There are many fantastic and magical elements woven throughout her tales, yet every moment feels real, plausible and familiar. While the Roux women are driven with love, this is definitely no soppy romance. The stories of her family and friends are full of the same little ironies we experience on a daily basis, and every event held both the happiness and sadness, laughter and heartbreak of our weird and wonderful world.
The settings were all vivid and exciting, from the tiny French apartment to the sprawling house on the hill in Seattle. Rich imagery made it easy for me to picture every detail of the rooms and streets in Ava’s world. I loved that the whole novel is set in the real world, as it revived a Harry Potter-like notion that magic and excitement is hiding right under our noses.
Walton’s style is pure elegance and every sentence is beautifully phrased to create a little extra magic. Finding just one quote for this review was a difficult task, as every word, paragraph and chapter flows seamlessly into the next. She truly is a fantastic writer, and really brought the characters and plot to life in the most enchanting way. I couldn’t recommend this book enough, especially to fans of young adult, fantasy or a little bit of whimsy. Walton’s writing is magical, and I can’t wait to read more from her!