Published by Candlewick Press on March 25, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
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Three generations of women, all with heartache and all with a resilience to continue on in the face of it. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is one of those books that seeps into you and stays there. Just like its title character, it’s strange and beautiful.
Debut author Leslye Walton pulls us into a world where a family member one day turns into a canary and a trio of ghosts trail a character through life. But in the style of other wonderful examples of magical realism, these oddities are less fantasy and more just a little idiosyncrasy of life. So Lavender matriarch Emilienne can see ghosts. She also has a bakery to run, so those ghosts better keep to themselves.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender stretches over the space of many years, first shadowing young, lovely Emilienne whose heart is broken and its pieces no longer available for use. She has a daughter, Viviane, and then two grandchildren, Ava and Henry. We dip in and out of the three ladies’ lives, but it’s Ava who is the heart of this story. She’s a normal girl … save for the wings sprouting from her back. Does this make her an angel, something to be kept behind glass and worshipped? Or just a girl who happens to have feathers?
I loved this story from start to finish. The setting is rich and full of life and the characters made me ache for their happiness. I wanted to live in their old house at the top of Pinnacle Lane and attend the annual solstice celebrations. I wanted to be friends with these strange women. And mostly I wanted to eat all of the breads and pastries turned out by Emilienne’s shop. This is a not a book to read while hungry. So grab a snack—preferably something delectable and French—and get this book immediately.