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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
Cover of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender
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A 2015 William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist. Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga. Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naive to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the summer solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava's quest and her family's saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

A 2015 William C. Morris Debut Award Finalist. Magical realism, lyrical prose, and the pain and passion of human love haunt this hypnotic generational saga. Foolish love appears to be the Roux family birthright, an ominous forecast for its most recent progeny, Ava Lavender. Ava—in all other ways a normal girl—is born with the wings of a bird. In a quest to understand her peculiar disposition and a growing desire to fit in with her peers, sixteen-year old Ava ventures into the wider world, ill-prepared for what she might discover and naive to the twisted motives of others. Others like the pious Nathaniel Sorrows, who mistakes Ava for an angel and whose obsession with her grows until the night of the summer solstice celebration. That night, the skies open up, rain and feathers fill the air, and Ava's quest and her family's saga build to a devastating crescendo. First-time author Leslye Walton has constructed a layered and unforgettable mythology of what it means to be born with hearts that are tragically, exquisitely human.

Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
    6.8
  • Lexile:
    1050
  • Interest Level:
    UG
  • Text Difficulty:
    5

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps because of this, she has developed a strange kinship with the daffodil. She too can only achieve beauty after a long, cold sulk in the rain. Her novel, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was inspired by a particularly long sulk in a particularly cold rainstorm.

    Leslye Walton currently lives in Seattle, Washington, where she spends most of her time in her own world—which, for the record, is far better than the real one anyway—with her fittingly-named Chihuahua, Mr. Darcy, and her spirit guide, a cat named Griff.

    When she's not writing, she teaches middle-school students how to read and write, and most importantly, how to be kind to one anther, even when they really don't feel like it.


    Leslye works best under the light of the moon, and will often wake her friends in the middle of the night to ask if they know another word for vivacious or if they remember what the guy sitting behind them at dinner last Tuesday ordered for dessert. Fortunately, Leslye has very forgiving friends.

    Three Things You Might Not Know About Leslye:

    1. When Leslye was younger, she wanted to be a singer, a writer, a teacher, or a mermaid, in that order. Hey, three outta four ain't bad!
    2. Oh yeah. Leslye also sings (see above), though these days it's primarily in the shower, or the car, or when she can convince talented students to accompany her on the guitar.
    3. She has a pair of wings tattooed on her left wrist that she got when she learned The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was going to be an actual book. She plans on memorializing each book with a tattoo. So far she has six tattoos . . . and one published book. Oops. Looks like she has some catching up to do!

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from December 23, 2013
    Walton debuts with an entrancing and sumptuously written multigenerational novel wrapped in the language of fable, magical realism, and local legend. Ostensibly about a 16-year-old born with wings, the novel is also a rich retelling of Ava Lavender's family history, including her stalwart grandmother Emilienne's journey from adolescence in rural France and 1920s Manhattan to a hardscrabble life as a widowed baker in Seattle; and Ava's mother Viviane's unrequited obsession with a childhood love and the rearing of her children. Halfway in, Ava's story moves front and center, as she longs to leave the safety of her home, sneaks out with her friend Cardigan, and begins to fall for Cardigan's brother, Rowe. Flirting with fairytalelike occurrences throughout—Viviane has a supernatural sense of smell, one of Emilienne's siblings transforms into a bird, ghosts are everywhere—Walton's novel builds to a brutal but triumphant conclusion. It's a story that adults and teenagers can appreciate equally, one that's less about love than about the way love can be thwarted and denied. Or, as Walton puts it, "the scars love's victims carry." Ages 14–up. Agent: Bernadette Baker-Baughman, Victoria Sanders & Associates.

  • School Library Journal

    Starred review from February 1, 2014

    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

    Copyright 2014 School Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    February 15, 2014
    Lyrical magical realism paints four generations of women with tragic lives until a shocking violation fixes everything. First-person narrator Ava, who isn't even born until nearly halfway through the novel, never becomes the main character. Instead, the novel opens with Ava's great-grandmother in France and follows the family through the ill-fated romances and personal calamities that chase them to Manhattan and eventually Seattle. Surrounded by death and despised by their neighbors, the Lavender women live in seclusion even from one another. Ava's grieving grandmother Emilienne sees ghosts and ignores her daughter, Viviane. Viviane pines away from blighted love while raising its fruit: twins Ava and Henry. In the metaphor-made-flesh style of the genre, both children wear their oddness on their bodies. Henry would be autistic if his strangeness and language difficulties weren't conceived as fantastical abilities, and Ava is born with wings. Isolated and, ironically, flightless, Ava longs to be a normal girl; her only real social contact is an earthy, vivacious neighborhood girl named Cardigan. The story's language is gorgeous: "I turned and spread my wings open, as wide as they would go, feeling the wind comb its cold fingers through my feathers." Disturbingly, a horrific assault acts as the vehicle of redemption, magically bringing people together for reasons that make sense only in the dreamlike metaphysics of literary device. Gorgeous prose for readers willing to be blindsided. (Magical realism. 16 & up)

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    March 1, 2014
    Grades 9-12 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 voicepoetic, 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.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2014, American Library Association.)

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    Candlewick Press
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