Genre fiction is something of a passion of mine – be it fantasy or sci-fi, or hard-boiled crime. The problem with loving genre fiction so much is that when a book crosses so many, without really fitting into one, it makes the reader (or at least me) keep trying to classify it the entire time.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, by Leslye Walton is unclassifiable, and that is in no way a bad thing. Haunting, beautiful, poignant, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender transports the reader to another, more lyrical, plain. Walton’s writing has a very literary feel, but it is never pretentious, never more than it needs to be. If you are after more than a story, and want an experience while reading then this is probably the book for you. If you want an easy read that doesn’t make you think too hard, then maybe not so much.
Ava Lavender is a girl born with the wings of a bird (or an angel as some believe). This book is her family history, and her own, as she sees it. Much of the book isn’t about Ava at all – it is about her grandmother and mother’s lives too. It is a generational story of foolish love, something that Ava feels she is to inherit. We are taken on a journey through the lives of three generations as they struggle with the types of love everyone experiences – the love of a partner, the love of family, and the love of friends. With undertones of magic, not just in Ava’s wings, but in the strange abilities of her family, the book has a very ethereal feel that is captivating.
I mentioned previously that The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is unclassifiable. The publisher states that it is young adult fiction, with magical realism woven in, and while I agree, I can’t help but feel pinning it under both those genres is too narrow-minded for a book like this. It is as much an adult book, with its family legacy, and its characters as it is young adult. And while magical realism might be the best way to describe the type of fantasy used, it is so much deeper than that.
Impossible to explain appropriately, even in a review, I recommend that you forget all the conventions you know, and get yourself a copy of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. It is worth reading regardless of your age or genre interests.