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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

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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 naïve 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.

301 pages, Hardcover

First published March 27, 2014

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About the author

Leslye Walton

3 books1,773 followers
Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps because of this, Leslye has developed a strange kinship with the daffodil--she too can only achieve beauty after a long, cold sulk in the rain. Her debut novel, THE STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL SORROWS OF AVA LAVENDER, was inspired by a particularly long sulk in a particularly cold rainstorm spent pondering the logic, or rather, lack thereof, in love.

Leslye is a full-time writer living in Seattle, Washington. She spends her time eating chocolate cupcakes, and doting on her chihuahuas, Mr. Darcy and Doc Holliday. Her next novel, THE PRICE GUIDE TO THE OCCULT, is set to be published in March 2018.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 7,514 reviews
Profile Image for Emily May.
1,990 reviews298k followers
May 17, 2015
To many, I was myth incarnate, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth — deep down, I always did.

I was just a girl.

Me immediately after finishing this book:

What the hell am I supposed to do now? What do I possibly read after this? How do I REVIEW this? How can everyone else just go on with their lives around me while I'm sat here clutching my kindle and trying to gather the pieces of my broken heart?

Me a few hours after finishing this book:

This book is easily the best book I have read this year. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of my favourite books, period. And now I somehow have to find the words to explain why.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is, as its title would suggest, a strange and beautiful book. It's a story about a family, spanning multiple generations - it's about life, love, desire, obsession and wasted youth... and it's fucking beautiful. There is something so breathtakingly real and honest about this book, even though aspects of the story are fantastical. It's a tale about many people, each crafted with rich personality and an almost painful humanity (even those not quite so human).

The writing is so beautiful, but simply so, that I found myself feeling inexplicably emotional at times. The story just carries this mood, an atmosphere , that permeates the entire novel and left me with goosebumps. Walton wields bittersweetness in a way that can make you smile and break your heart in a single sentence. She captures the intense and feverish desires and obsessions of youth and first love/lust - with more than a little perversion at times. There is something so beautifully ugly about life, about love, about realizing you no longer love someone.

The Griffith House was like nothing Viviane remembered, reminding her of how fast the world changed and of how insignificant she was in the grand scheme of things. She thought it unfair that her life should be both irrelevant and difficult. One or the other seemed quite enough.

Being a relatively short-to-average sized book and having so many characters, you'd think this book would fall short of the mark and fail to develop complex characters. But it doesn't. At all. In fact, the large cast of characters - none of which is wasted or throwaway - made this book absolutely fascinating. I'm not sure I've felt such a strong emotional connection with a book since the weeks immediately following my discovery of Melina Marchetta. Every single character interested me, I didn't relate to them all but I felt like I understood each one of them. And this is what makes so much of the book feel helplessly tragic. People are hurt by other people who I wanted to hate for hurting them... but I couldn't.*

And it really is so sad. It's about the foolishly inexplicable things we do, the things left unsaid, the unknowing, the things that could have so easily been different. But I promise that it's not all doom and gloom either. It's a rich, intoxicating whirlwind of emotions. It's exciting and romantic and incredibly funny.

I'm not going to say anything else because this review is descending into blabbering, gushing madness and I'm going a little crazy with the BOLD text (hehe). But, what can I say... Love makes us such fools. And I really love this book.

Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
June 20, 2018
hope is the thing with feathers

and maybe it is, to cheerful people like emily dickinson, but this book is not about hope. it is about all of the scars love's victims carry.

and there is nothing i do not love about it.

this book reminds me of traditional fairytales in their purest forms - before being sanitized or gentled for the presumed fragility of young minds. it positively drips with death and loss: people cutting out their own hearts, turning into birds, people suffering endlessly because of impossible loves.

and in the midst of all this, a girl is born with a pair of wings.

it is magical realism at the height of its potential. it is like marquez in its chronicling of the relentless suffering of the different generations of a family, and it is esquivel in its food-as-magic:

Happy smiles were shared between the bride and groom, but it was the cake their guests remembered - the vanilla custard filling, the buttercream finish, the slight taste of raspberries that had surely been added to the batter. No one brought home any slices of leftover cake to place under their pillow, hoping to dream of their future mate; instead, the guests… ate the whole cake and then had dreams of eating it again. After this wedding unmarried women woke in the night with tears in their eyes, not because they were alone, but because there wasn't any cake left.

it is, quite simply, one of the best books i have ever read.

and maybe it is just a for-me perfect book - reading the other, less enthusiastic reviews here on goodreads made my heart ache. despite all my readers' advisory training, where we are encouraged to behave as though no opinion is wrong, there is still a part of me that wants to grab people by their lapels and whisper "how could you?? how could you miss what this book is??"

people who are disappointed that the title is misleading because it is not only about the sorrows of ava lavender, but of her whole freaking family - i don't even know how to respond to that. who says, "gee, i wish the story hadn't been so rich and full. i wish that it had only been about this one wing'ed girl and not about the snowballing of familial sorrow that culminated in her birth and her own patch of sorrow. i'm just not a big fan of context."

i don't even know what to do with that.

i can understand the people who were flattened by how sad this book is. this book is YA in the same way that Tender Morsels is YA, which is to say - not your momma's YA. it is dark and violent and features intercourse both consensual and not, there is murder and suicide, ghosts and untouched harpsichords, and there is just so much pain. but the pain and sorrow and darkness is also beautiful and lyrical and magical. and it is walton's delicate language that lifts the story out of its own despair and makes it completely transcend the gloom. it is like watching something beautiful burn, and you have to acknowledge that flames are also beautiful in their own way, even as they destroy.

tiny little examples of such:

-Her mother's scent was that of fresh-baked bread, tainted by a slightly brackish tone, as if the bread had been salted with tears.


-"Just remember, meu inima, my heart," she would say, "royal blood flows through our veins and from our wounds."

and even structurally, there are little surprises to the close reader - moments of mirroring between the thoughts and actions of characters, careful foreshadowing, unexpected word choices. this book is a true reader's delight.

i absolutely adored it, and i am truly going to miss these characters.

i will leave you with this excerpt, because it seems fitting.

"It's… dangerous for someone like me to be out in the open."

As if in response, my wings started to flutter underneath their shroud. I gave the cloak a good yank.

"Someone like you? Someone different, you mean?"

I shrugged. "Yes," I answered quietly, suddenly shy.

"So, is it dangerous for us or for you?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, are you the threat, or are we?"

"You are! Well, They are." I motioned to the cluster of teenagers. Of course it was them.

Rowe peered at me thoughtfully. "Funny. I suspect they might say otherwise." He stood.

"And that might just be the root of the problem: we're all afraid of each other, wings or no wings."


i am only fifty pages in, but i'm calling it - this is an absolute MUST READ!

go to netgalley. now.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Navessa.
Author 11 books7,636 followers
October 29, 2022

...is what I wish someone else had put at the top of their review so I could have fucking saved myself from running headfirst into that scene.

The moral of this book: everything of beauty in this world will eventually be destroyed by those who covet it.
Profile Image for Samantha.
440 reviews16.7k followers
October 26, 2015
Reading this book felt like wrapping myself in a warm blanket on a misty, autumn day. The writing was beautiful. The characters were magical. The entire book felt like something you could sink into. This has been added to my favorites shelf, and I'm already looking forward to re-reading it in the future.
Profile Image for Kai Spellmeier.
Author 6 books13.7k followers
April 6, 2021
“Love, as most know, follows its own timeline. Disregarding our intentions or well rehearsed plans.”

Not a monster, not an angel, Ava Lavender is a winged girl, born into a family where love and tragedy are always found knocking on their door.

I am still unsure what to think of this novel. The title pretty much explains it all: It's strange and it's beautiful. But it's also heartbreaking, tragic, dark and most of all shocking. Not that you weren't warned. From page One the tension started to grow and I knew something terrible was going to happen. But I still had hope. Maybe because no other GR friend of mine expressed the shock that I felt in his or her reviews. Or maybe I just read this wrong. But I'm sure I didn't. Which leads me to mention this (trigger-) warning: If you don't want spoilers, stop reading now. This novel features one violent rape-scene and I was definitely not prepared to read it.

Apart from that, I really loved this book. It portrays strong and diverse women, with character-depth and impressive backgrounds. It's unpredictable and unique in many ways. And it really reminded me of the film Amélie.

Can't wait to read Leslye Waltons new project, whatever it's going to be.

Find more of my books on Instagram
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.1k followers
April 10, 2016
It was an interesting fairy tale but it really didn't sweep me away. It felt meandering - with characters and plot ideas that could have been exciting but for me fell flat and aimless.

This is marked very often as Magical Realism, which is why I decided to read it for my Magical Realism course, but I think it doesn't actually work as Magical Realism. Instead I would call it a fairy tale, simply because (at least in my explorations) Magical Realism is magic that goes unquestioned in its society but in this story it does mark people as different and other.
Profile Image for chloe.
244 reviews28.5k followers
August 25, 2019
2.5 stars*

This one didn’t really work for me. It was too vague for me, I didn’t personally connect to many of the characters and some things were too weird/uncomfortable for me.

Some things I did like: the exploration of family relationships & the atmosphere

TW: rape, suicide, abuse, emotional abuse, animal abuse
Profile Image for emma.
1,866 reviews54.4k followers
January 11, 2018
This book...is so weird.

I don’t know what I expected. I’ve had this book on to-read and to-buy lists intermittently for about three years, without ever once building a concept of what it was about beyond “girl with wings.”

I guess I definitively didn’t expect “girl with wings in historical fiction narrative featuring brutal violence, tragic discussion of love, horrifying moments, overwrought symbols, and treacly writing.”
But that particular oddness salad is what I got.

All the bits I wanted more of in this were not what I got. I liked the historical Paris setting. I liked the bakery.

This kind of felt more like a series of vignettes taking place in the same world rather than one cohesive narrative. Add that to the poorly defined magical realism and it was all rather confusing.

All the characters were more ideas than people and so was the plot or lack thereof and there were just these moments of shocking horror and violence and there’s one in particular that I’m thinking of and the way love was depicted was just so unsettling and...I don’t know.

A book with a title and a cover like this should have been better.

Bottom line: I have no insight into this. But I didn’t like it very much.
Profile Image for Hailey (Hailey in Bookland).
614 reviews87.8k followers
February 14, 2017
SPOILER FREE REVIEW: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Hs4...

Wow. What a beautiful fairytale Leslye Walton crafts. Read this book. It will stay with you forever.
What a way to start off the year!

I will admit, the first few chapters I wasn't really feeling it so much. I wasn't hating it by any means, the writing is much too beautiful to hate, but I found it a bit tedious. However, after that I really got absorbed into the story.
The way this story is told really allows you to familiarize yourself with the characters and their situation. It is Ava Lavender, the protagonist, telling the story starting with her great grandmother, then her grandmother, then her mother, and finally her. I loved the fact that you got glimpses into the lives (love lives mostly) of her family. It just made the story seem so much more real.
I loved the whimsicalness of the character's and the situations they are in. I feel like this is a modern day fairytale. It was just SO fantastic.
I really can't explain why I loved this book so much because it is beyond words... just read it.
Profile Image for Anne .
183 reviews264 followers
February 9, 2017


I have nothing to add to my previous review except: DAMN YOU YOU FOUL EXCUSE OF A MAN. YES YOU.

First read: 24th December 2015
4.5/5 STARS

Do I attempt purging my feels by screaming at the top my lungs?

Or JUMP AROUND like the world is alight in sparkling colors?


Or BECOME a human dynamite?




I kid you not, when I say that halfway through this book I had to stop and take a moment-more like several moments- to just hug it, tightly. So tightly. I think I broke the poor baby's spine. I don't know why I'm so emotional. It's not me, it's the Christmas season that has turned me mushy. Damn YOU filthy Christmas air. Damn you Jack Griffith. Damn you Levi Blythe. Damn you John. Triple DAMN YOU Nathaniel. Damn ALL OF YOU. No not YOU I mean them.

Fifteen year old Ava Wilhelmina Lavender is something of an aberration. She was born into the world bearing wings. A reality as strange and queer as the family she was born into: A family that has only known sorrow to go hand in hand with love. A family that has known loss and heartbreak, and let it define their lives by regarding their misfortunes as fate - and a burden to be passed down from generation to generation like a family heirloom.
The following is the story of my young life as I remember it. It is the truth as I know it. Of the stories and the myths that surrounded my family and my life — some of them thoughtfully scattered by you perhaps — let it be said that, in the end, I found all of them to be strangely, even beautifully, true.

Everything about this story was peculiar. From the plot and characters right down to the narrative style. A peculiar story set in an as-realistic-as-could-be world with fantastical characters trying to make their way in it-and of course, living in such a world can only emphasize how strange these characters were. The narrative style is one I can only describe as liberal, and I freaking loved it. It kept bouncing back and forth between first and third person narrative. Half the time, I wasn't even paying attention to who was narrating. Half the time I didn't care. I was that engrossed in it all.

Before I go on, I just want to say a little something about the pacing. You asked for a fast pace? Well the words "Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it" come to mind. The pace was FAST.
There were times when I felt like this

And other times I felt like how I imagine crashing into the whomping willow and getting repeatedly whacked by it would feel.

I just didn't even have enough time sometimes to settle down and process some things before I got towel-flogged with more information.

I like to think of this story as a testament to love, and everything it is, everything it brings: Joy and happiness, hope, heartbreak, peace, desire, longing-
But more than that, she learned how to worry. She, who’d always thought love’s only companion was sorrow, learned that worry came hand in hand with love.

I won't lie, I felt like some parts of this book were a bit outlandish, and some exaggerative, but it didn't stop them from being so affective. SO FREAKING CRUEL ON MY EMOTIONS. I want to ask the author how she could do such a thing to readers. How and why would you do such things to people?

What baffled me most, were the characters. Their capacity to love and love foolishly was as heartwarming as it was appalling. And the way they fell in and out of it, like it was the easiest thing to do in the world, like moving from one used tissue or handkerchief to another, though alarming it was, is not something I can attack with words. Because that isn't the whole truth of it. Their love wasn't that cavalier or without depth. They loved greatly, fiercely, wholly; they loved unarmored. And they hurt the same way, unarmored, and then with armor. The way they hurt and loved and hurt and loved so rhythmically, you'd think brokenness was some kind of art. Sometimes I felt like this story was glorifying love, and other times I felt like it was underrating and upbraiding it. I don't know how it could do that, but it did. Everything was so complex. I'm sorry. Am I confusing you? I'm pretty confused myself. I write this review hoping to organize my thoughts, hoping it would serve as an outlet for my very jumbled up and ruffled emotions. Reviewing can be so cathartic at times.

A lot of pages were given to the history of Ava's progenitors, her ancestry and her heritage. And I have to say, I was so impressed by how the author achieved such heavy download of information without it turning boring and dumpy. The details are, I think, needed for us to understand where Ava's coming from, where she's headed-and maybe even why she had to end up the way she did. But it's because of that same reason I failed to give this a full five star rating. I needed to read more from Ava without everyone else crowding into her space. I loved Ava's voice so much. Though sheltered and forever wondering about her place in the world, Ava's voice sounded hopeful and brave. Her belief that she was fated to a sorrowful existence was so heartbreaking.
There it was again. Fate.

**SNIFFS ** I JUST WANT TO HUG SOMETHING. And right now I couldn't care less If it were a tree.
That ending. Oh my word. I want to hate it, but then I think: How many stories end with butterflies and cuddles in real life? Aren't books supposed to be modeled after life, this wandering and yearning existence we have been condemned to? How many make it out of that rabbit hole and find themselves gifted with the sun and beauty, and meaning? I'm struggling with the ending of this book, with it's meaning. But regardless of the struggle, I love it for it's realism. And besides, sometimes it's all about the journey. The journey matters: The road itself matters and not where it leads. I think that's the case with this book. At least, for me.
Another reason I didn't 5-star this was because of the magic. I seriously and honestly couldn't understand it's essence. I saw it's manifestations, but the principle of it eluded me.

This book got me wondering about how a person can leave someone they claim to love and then slime their way back to them after years, expecting to continue from where they left off, like time never passed at all, like the person they left behind is a log of wood. Life is a moving scene, yes, but it's not one you can play, fast-forward, or rewind. How can you come back expecting something, expecting anything at all. Like Really?

You want her back? YOU FREAKING EARN HER! **takes a deep breath** I am calm. I am calm. The characters annoyed me so much, they were so human, complete with damning flaws, treacherous, avaricious hearts, and steadfast wills that were in an endless war with all the parts of them that screamed practicality. I want to get on my ladder, and climb up to the rooftop and scream out to the world: I LOVE THIS BOOK! I'M IN LOVE WITH THIS BOOK. AND I LOVE HOW IT MADE ME FEEL.

If you read through the whole review, I thank you. Now this is the part where I close up and go look for a hole to crawl into and die. Love freaking hurts

Profile Image for Kaylin (The Re-Read Queen).
425 reviews1,639 followers
October 21, 2019
2.5 Stars

Ooh boy, what does it mean for 2019 when my first read leaves me so conflicted? The first 75% of this book is a five-star read. The last 25% is a one star.

From almost the first page, the story makes it clear it’s headed somewhere. That it’s not just aimless wanderings and magic, but that there’s something special about Ava. The first half of the book is dedicated to her lineage, telling us stories of her great-grandfather and grand-parents and slowly arriving at her father and mother and the circumstances of her birth. This sounds boring, but instead of focusing on history, the focus in on character. All of these characters were interesting and striving for something unique, which made their stories interesting.

Along the way magic is infused seamlessly and beautifully. A woman who sees ghosts of loved ones, a boy who communicates in dozens of languages, and a woman who uses scents to predict the future. To me, Magical Realism is not Fantasy without the world-building, but instead, our world permeated with magic. This hit all those buttons for me, and perfectly fit into a genre I love.

My problem starts when we reach that destination. Because all the magic, all the history, the whole story has been building to the climax. And that climax is not only disappointing, but insulting. I’m not tagging for spoilers and will not be going into detail but MAJOR trigger warnings for sexual assault.

I get it, okay. I get there’s supposed to be something poetic about life destroying everything that’s beautiful and different and isn’t life strange and oh-god-the-humanity. I think this is a cheap, emotionally manipulative tactic. And do not get me started on how gross the whole thing feels. People are not defined or broken by their trauma. To have some main event (the driving force of the novel??) be a character’s trauma that effectively clips her wings and steals her greatness? It doesn’t sit well with me.


Idk. Every time I think about the ending I get so angry it makes me forget how spectacular most of the book was.
April 15, 2022
A world, in which fused are reality and fiction, magical and quotidien, obscurily and luminousity. Poetic, entrancing, unbelievable story put in most peculiarly diaphanous writing.
For many, this might be too whimsical. For me, this triggered my imagination in so many ways! I loved this. It was like a glass of warm sweet milk on a rainy day, drank in the comfort of my room, while listening to the sounds of the rain and breathing in the ozone smell! I don't know how else to put it, this is a breathtaking book! A complete one-off, a totally standalone fruit of outstanding talent.

This story is interspersed with beautiful names:
Ignatius Lux
Nathaniel Sorrows
Laura Lovelorn
Constance Quakenbush
Wilhelmina Dovewolf
Satin Lush
Levi Blythe
Trace Graves

TO MANY, I WAS MYTH INCARNATE, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth — deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.
“Are you a bird, an angel, or what?” ... “I think I’m just a girl.” (с)
It seemed there was no separating the girl from the wings. One could not survive without the other. (c)
Of the stories and the myths that surrounded my family and my life — some of them thoughtfully scattered by you perhaps — let it be said that, in the end, I found all of them to be strangely, even beautifully, true. (c)
... making them suspect that Beauregard Roux was perhaps a little more unstable than they might have wished for someone so large. (c)
Beauregard sold his phrenology practice only one month later. (c) I don't believe it. The value and liquidity of such a business in a small town would be extremely close to zero as the main asset would be the skills and connections of the specialist himself and not the rest of the bells and whistles.
Aside from Pierette, Emilienne was considered the strangest Roux of them all. It was rumored that she possessed certain unlikely gifts: the ability to read minds, walk through walls, and move things using only the power of her thoughts. But my grandmother hadn’t any powers; she wasn’t clairvoyant or telepathic. Simply put, Emilienne was merely more sensitive to the outside world than other people. As such, she was able to catch on to things that others missed. While to some a dropped spoon might indicate a need to retrieve a clean one, to Emilienne it meant that her mother should put the kettle on for tea — someone was coming to visit. ... And while this gift proved useful at times, it could also make things quite confusing for young Emilienne. She struggled to distinguish between signs she received from the universe and those she conjured up in her head. (c)
Love can make us such fools... (c)
... a rather disastrous event where she appeared on the stoop of his apartment building wearing nothing but a few feathers plastered to an indiscreet place — Pierette took the extreme step of turning herself into a canary. ...
The bird-watcher never noticed Pierette’s drastic attempt at gaining his affection and instead moved to Louisiana, drawn by its large population of Pelecanus occidentalis. Which only goes to show, some sacrifices aren’t worth the cost. Even, or perhaps most especially, those made out of love. (c)
Emilienne was beautiful, mysterious. A tad strange at times, yes. But Margaux? Margaux was only a pale shadow of the art form that was Emilienne. (c)
She was thinking of the loveliness of such moments, admiring the rain and the graying sky the way one might admire the painting of an up-and-coming artist, one whose celebrity seems presaged by the swirls of his brush marks. It was while she was in the midst of such thoughts that Satin Lush walked out of the café, the clink of his leg disturbing the rhythm of the rain against the awning. Emilienne was immediately transfixed by the circle of light green in one of his eyes, the way it deliciously clashed with the cerulean blue of the other. She found that she did not mind losing the previous moment, for this one was just as lovely. (c)
Maman continued to grow more transparent, enough so that her children could reach right through her to place a milk bottle in the icebox, often without thinking much about it.
soon disappeared completely, leaving behind only a small pile of blue ashes between the sheets of her bed. Emilienne kept them in an empty tin of throat lozenges. (c)
... promised she’d be good to her husband, as long as he didn’t ask for her heart.
She no longer had one to give. (c)
“What do you mean, no?”
“I mean, no. I will not live here.”
And with that began a conversation that would repeat for several hundred more miles... (с)
Ellensburg, a town that had once famously burned to the ground completely. Emilienne took one look outside and said, “Whatever made them want to rebuild it?” (c)
The neighbors regarded Emilienne the way most do when confronted with the odd. Of course, this was a tad more complex than an aversion of the eyes from an unseemly mole or a severely scarred finger. Everything about Emilienne Lavender was strange. To Emilienne, pointing at the moon was an invitation for disaster, a falling broom the same. ... Soon the quiet whispers of witch began following Emilienne wherever she went. And to associate with the neighborhood witch, well, that would be an invitation for a disaster much more dangerous than anything the moon might bring. So her neighbors did the only thing that seemed appropriate — they avoided Emilienne Lavender completely. (c)
Wives who did not begin their married lives as empty vases. (c)
But neither Emilienne nor Connor ever once stopped to ponder the miracles love might bring into their lives. Connor because he didn’t know such things existed, and Emilienne because she did. (c)
As an adult, she carried with her the air of someone forever displaced — not quite part of the white race, yet no longer fitting in with the members of her tribe. In other words, Wilhelmina was a very old soul in a young body. The people of Pinnacle Lane regarded her in much the same way they regarded Emilienne, meaning, of course, that they didn’t regard her at all. (c)
So they danced as Jack counted out the beat — T-A-N-G-O! — ​until Viviane could move in his arms as naturally as an Argentinean prostituta. (c)
The house on the hill became a carousel of everchanging men, women, children, and animals, all needing a place to rest, sometimes for the night, sometimes longer. The longest to stay was a family of black cats. ...The longest-staying resident of the human variety, however, was Gabe. (c)
On the nights she went out, she would remind Gabe to chain the door, then leave him to his empty dreams amid a fog of her velvety black perfume. ...
“Just remember, inima˘ mea, my heart,” she would say, “royal blood flows from our wounds.” (c)
Emilienne welcomed him in because, upon opening the door, she heard a birdsong rising from the east, announcing good love’s arrival. (c)
This was hardly a surprise. Emilienne was always getting strange messages from equally strange places. If she dreamed of keys, a change was on its way. Dreaming of tea implied an unforeseen visitor. A birdcall from the north meant tragedy; from the west, good luck; and from the east, it announced the arrival of good love. As a child, Viviane wondered if her mother’s gifts stretched further into the supernatural realm — perhaps she could communicate with the dead. But Emilienne had dismissed Viviane’s theory with a wave of her hand.
“Ghosts don’t exist,” she’d said, glancing furtively into the far corner of the room. (c)
Jack had to leave in order to come back, didn’t he? And she knew he would be back, just as she knew that some of the stars that shone bright in the sky were already dead and that she was beautiful, if only to Jack. And that’s just the way it was. (c)
“I met someone.” And the leaves fell from the trees, landing to float in the calm black waters. ...
The music stopped. The moon disappeared from the sky. The couple in the white house had gone to bed, taking the warm light with them. (c) A beautiful allegory of love lost.
Viviane answered her with a soda fountain smile and a declaration: “I’m going to fly.” (c)
John Griffith was an angry, prideful man who believed he deserved much more than life had given him.
That night he dreamed he could fly. He dreamed of the whispery kiss of clouds, cold and wet on his cheek, as he soared into the night sky, the streets below fading into darkness.
But this wasn’t his dream. It was his wife’s.
weight. No one on Pinnacle Lane ever saw Beatrix Griffith again, not even John, but he knew she was still out there, that she had not simply faded into a small pile of blue ashes he would someday find between the sheets of their bed. He knew because every night after she left, he shared her dreams. Dreams of giant flocks of pelicans, mugs of hot chocolate, and foreign men’s strong hands.
John Griffith shared his estranged wife’s dreams for the rest of his life — nightly reveries of polar bears on black sand beaches, spiny pieces of exotic fruit, and tiny porcelain teacups. He feared sleep, dreaded nightfall like a child afraid of what might be lurking in the shadows. (c)
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. (c)
Dangers lurk around every corner for the strange. And with my feathered appendages, Henry’s mute tongue, and my mother’s broken heart, what else were we but strange? (c)
HENRY WAS FREED from our mother’s protective rule on the hill just a few months after we turned thirteen. Thirteen years. I often wondered if my mother truly had our best interests or hers at heart when she imposed this way of life on us. (c)
THOSE BORN UNDER Pacific Northwest skies are like daffodils: they can achieve beauty only after a long, cold sulk in the rain. Henry, our mother, and I were Pacific Northwest babies. At the first patter of raindrops on the roof, a comfortable melancholy settled over the house. The three of us spent dark, wet days wrapped in old quilts, sitting and sighing at the watery sky. (c) Yes! I can relate to this! Love rain, adore the thunderstorms!
Helpful, capable, but hardly known for being personable, she objected to interfaith marriage, coffee stains on white gloves, and any form of appetite, food-related or otherwise. Fellow parishioners used to joke that Marigold slept in a position that vaguely emulated the Crucifixion. And they were right.
The night before her wedding night, a young Marigold painstakingly embroidered the nuptial sheets with tiny indecipherable doves and lambs, hoping to evoke Ines del Campo, Catholic saint of betrothed couples, bodily purity, and rape victims. She was intimate with her husband only while using that sheet, revealing to him only the parts of her body necessary for such an act. They never had any children. (c)
Gabe was unusually tall, so had to be careful where he stood, for if he blocked the sun, his shadow could cause flowers to wither and old women to send their grandchildren inside to fetch their sweaters.
... a very pious young man. As a boy, Nathaniel’s simple “hello” prompted neighbors to blurt out long-hidden sins or to donate new clothing to the local homeless shelter. Just the sight of him crossing the street with his mother led adulterous men to become celibate and avid hunters to develop appetites satisfied only by vegetarian recipes. (c) I love how the author strings her hyperboles so organically into this story! Can't help thinking of the Rammstein's 'Er ist fromm und sehr sensibel...
To put it simply, my mother worried. She worried about our neighbors’ reactions. Would they break me with their disparaging glances, their cruel intolerance? She worried I was just like every other teenage girl, all tender heart and fragile ego. She worried I was more myth and figment than flesh and blood. She worried about my calcium levels, my protein levels, even my reading levels. She worried she couldn’t protect me from all of the things that had hurt her: loss and fear, pain and love.
Most especially from love. (c)
Instead, there was a window where I spent my nights looking out at Salmon Bay and watching the ships drift by. And there were piles of feathers, which gathered mysteriously in my room’s lonely corners. (c)
“I wonder why I haven’t seen that before.”
“Maybe you just needed someone to help you see the parts that aren’t so obvious.” (c)
And that might just be the root of the problem: we’re all afraid of each other, wings or no wings. (c)
She had a soft, wispy sort of voice that made me think of dandelion clocks. (c)
But I’d been protected my whole life, forced to watch the world through the lonely window of my bedroom while the night called to me, like a siren luring forlorn sailors onto a rocky shoal. I didn’t want to be protected from the world anymore. (c)
The more my infatuation grew, the more deeply I mourned the potential loss of the life I dreamed of. It was all too precious, too thoroughly imagined and yearned for to lose. (c)
I stopped sleeping. I stopped eating. My wings lost feathers. (c)
I thought of the life I’d created for us in my head: the cocktail parties, the dog named Noodle. But it was an illusion, a prefabricated dream, while Rowe was real. I could touch him. And he could touch me. (c)
“I just don’t think you should let other people d-define you,” ... “I think you could be anything you wanted.” (c)
And with that, the love I thought I had for Marigold Pie’s nephew ran off me like water from melting ice. Like so many others, Nathaniel Sorrows was interested only in my wings. Unlike Rowe... (c)
There would be no flowers for the women to wear in their hair at the summer solstice celebration, which made them weep. Well, either that or the wind had blown specks of dirt in their eyes. (c)
Falling out of love was much harder than Gabe would have liked. Normally led through life by the heart attached to his sleeve, finding logic in love proved to be a bit like getting vaccinated for some dread disease: a good idea in the end, but the initial pain certainly wasn’t any fun. He came to appreciate that there were worse ways to live than to live without love. For instance, if he didn’t have arms, Gabe wouldn’t be able to hide in his work. Yes, a life without arms would be quite tragic, indeed.
In Gabe’s view, the whole world had given up on love anyway and clung instead to its malformed cousins: lust, narcissism, self-interest. (c0
Until Trouver arrived, we thought that Henry couldn’t talk. Turned out, he could; he just didn’t like to. He made himself a rule to say only things that were important. No one — not even his own family — knew about this rule. No one needed to. (c)
I’d spent so many years imagining the event, placing myself in the crowd, that I wondered if maybe, in the end, it wouldn’t matter if I actually felt the flames of the bonfire on my face. I often wondered the same thing about being kissed. Or falling in love. Did I need to experience them if I could imagine them? A part of me feared that Pinnacle Lane’s solstice celebration couldn’t possibly live up to la fête in my head. (c)
Could the strange survive on their own? (c)
I may be a bit strange, but that doesn’t mean I’m afraid of the dark. (c)
The woman at the booth had told me that chocolate came from the Mayans, an ancient people who believed that drinking hot chocolate could bring them wisdom and power. They considered it the food of their gods. (c)
And sometimes when I’m feeling extra down, when I’m missing my grandmother, I have to remind myself that love comes in all sorts of packages.
Just because love don’t look the way you think it should don’t mean you don’t have it. (c)
But while the thought of being dead seemed appealing, the actual act of dying did not. Dying required too much action. And if recent events proved anything, my body wasn’t going to give over to death without a fierce fight; so if I were to kill myself, I’d have to make sure I could do it. That I’d be good and dead once it was all over and not mutilated or half deranged but still dreadfully alive. (c)
I smiled then in spite of myself. I smiled past all of my misgivings and reservations, past all previous heartbreak and any future heartbreak, because Rowe had come back. It was true, what he had written to me. Suddenly the weary burden of my attack didn’t seem quite so heavy as I remembered something else he wrote.You don’t have to carry it by yourself. (c)
But, mostly, I like to think that Jack Griffith, my father, smiled as I let go of the railing behind me and, stretching my wings to that star-studded sky, soared into the night. (c)
757 reviews2,349 followers
April 22, 2017
3 1/2 stars.

Wow, what a strange and wonderful book, which I was hoping to love.

It's not a bad book, but there were lots of things that I didn't like.

◆About 150 pages in the book is about tragic love stories about Ava's ancestors.
◆It was extremely confusing towards the beginning.
◆I had a hard time remembering who was which character because of the names. The names were beautiful, but I found myself confused as to who the characters were.
◆There was not much dialogue.
◆Still wondering what the plot is.

◆I'm still confused about that ending, but I have my theories about what happened.
◆The story wasn't even focused on Ava and I wanted to learn more about her, not her ancestors.

Things I liked:

◆The ending.

BR with: Gibbous child.

What did I just read? Towards the beginning it was all chill and then what the actual fuck happened at the end.



RTC because like, I need to process what I've read and I'm like still try to figure out what fucking happened at the end.

60 pages in and:
○Confusing as fuck.
○Still don't know any of the names.
○Why is this so emo and depressing???
○Why such tragic love stories?
○Death. So much death.
○Just...extremely strange stuff going on.
Profile Image for Shelby *trains flying monkeys*.
1,604 reviews5,987 followers
January 2, 2014
The writing in this book is absolutely amazing. It's one of those books that once you start reading it you just feel like the book opens up and you step into it. I honestly could smell the bread baking and my mouth watered when the story was in the bakery area. It reminded me of a previous favorite author of mine before she turned on readers. I missed this kind of magical story.
It's the story of an entire family. I think some people have gone into this book expecting a book about the "girl born with wings" and it is that somewhat. The whole story does not center on Ava Lavender. I think this gives the reader a chance to really know these wonderful characters.
Characters that are afraid to love because of previous hurts and heartaches, characters that come to life under Leslye Walton's talented hand.
Profile Image for Steph Sinclair.
461 reviews11.1k followers
April 8, 2014

"Love makes us such fools."
Ava Lavender’s family has a history of tragic love stories. Her great-grandmother, Maman; grandmother, Emilienne; and mother, Viviane’s stories are all told through this generational saga exploring themes of love and love lost.

And then there is Ava, the girl born with wings, where the story truly takes shape. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is magical realism at its best.

“Older” Ava, our narrator, opens with a powerful prologue that instantly hooked me and set the perfect tone for the novel. She navigates through her family’s history—along with her own—with a lyrical prose that maintains a whimsical and traditional fairy tale feel despite the sorrowful themes. She tells multiple stories of not only her family, but of others who indirectly crossed paths with the women of the Roux/Lavender family, adding to the surreal experience. There are disappearing people, ghosts, birds, and a subtle magical thread weaving it all together that never feels logical nor out of place. There are times where I wasn’t sure if what Ava was telling me were true or fabrication, but it held an addictive quality that urged to me continue turning page after page late into the night.

The theme of love was an interesting one because while it does include stories of men and women, Walton, focuses primarily on the women of the Roux/Lavender family and the long term effects their failed relationships and mistreatment of men had on them. I’m not entirely sure if this was intentional or not, but my mind couldn’t ignore the common situations many women in real life go through depicted in the novel: loveless marriage, single parenting, sexual abuse, etc. For each of the women, naïveté is both their charm and curse. It’s their hope, willingness to give their hearts freely and complete trust that leads to their heartbreak. Ava is different from the other women since she appears to be more cautious due to her sheltered upbringing, however, even that ultimately leads to her downfall.

The villain felt both literal and metaphorical for me as a reader and where I feel the novel shines the brightest. There is a physical antagonist in the form of an evangelical stalker obsessed with Ava and her wings. But on a deeper level the villain also manifests as the women’s own sorrows and their inability to heal and move on from the past situations that led to so much pain. It leaves them broken, isolated from the community and guarded even from each other. It isn’t until “Younger” Ava’s tragedy that we start to really see a change in that aspect.

If I have one form of criticism it’s that I was hoping to find out more about “Older” Ava. Much of the novel involves relating “Younger” Ava’s family history all the way until after the climax, but we never really have a glimpse into what becomes of “Older” Ava. The prologue asks the question of where she came from she is since she’s born with wings and I was searching desperately for that answer, but it never came. Or at least in the way that I thought it would. But that’s just part of the novel’s charm—its answers always slightly out of reach, constantly maintaining the air of mystery. Perhaps there wasn’t an answer to actually give or it was just another metaphor for the family’s struggles. Or maybe what I really need to do is re-read the book because clearly Walton’s novel is not yet done with me.

Overall, I’m both impressed and dazzled by Leslye Walton’s debut. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a novel that has so many layers that it demands your attention. Written with the finesse of a seasoned writer, it’s stunning, magical, strange and, of course, very beautiful. Highly recommended.


ARC was received from the publisher via YA Books Central.
This review first appeared on Tor.com

For more reviews and other fantastical things, check out Cuddlebuggery Book Blog.
Profile Image for Lotte.
559 reviews1,115 followers
March 15, 2017
What a wonderful little story. Ava Lavender, you have rightfully earned your place on my favorites shelf!
This was a beautiful family saga about three generations of women. We not only get to know Ava’s story, but also her grandmother’s and mother’s; we follow them from France, to New York, to Seattle and to the whimsical street that is Pinnacle Lane. All the women's stories are stories of foolish love and its consequences. All are beautiful and touched me in different ways.
Ava Lavender is a perfect example of why I love magical realism and why we should all read more of it. I love how while this is still a story about human emotions and about what it means to be human, it has so many magical elements. From odd little things (a woman slowly becoming translucent out of sorrow before disappearing completely) to the magical and lyrical language and even down to the magical names of the characters. Small magical oddities are everywhere in this book and that's what makes it so special.
This was Leslye Walton's debut novel, but I will definitely keep my eyes peeled for whatever she publishes next.
Profile Image for Aqsa.
291 reviews307 followers
March 7, 2019
Read for February Reading Sprint-2019 in Buddy Reads.

TO MANY, I WAS MYTH INCARNATE, the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale. Some considered me a monster, a mutation. To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel. To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost. But I knew the truth — deep down, I always did.
I was just a girl.

Ava Lavender was born in 1944 and in 2014, and after years or research of her past and her family tree, Ava shares with us her findings and the answers to the two question that have always haunted her. The questions that were born the moment she was born with wings.

Fate. Both my anguish and my solace. My escort and my cage.

First, don’t you just love the cover? It’s so beautiful, and believe me, so was the writing. I fell in love with it right away. I was laughing one moment and shuddering the next only to laugh at the very next moment (that is, until only a couple of chapters in-then it got bittersweet). Did anyone else felt like that? It was magical really. This wasn’t just Ava’s story, this was so much more, so many stories, and the transition from one to the other was so smooth and perfect. I went into this expecting a sweet YA contemporary with maybe a love interest (I go in blind usually) and was instead greeted by something much better, something homely, something weird, something sweet and bitter, something that made me smile but had me reaching for tissues more often that I thought possible (though this music might have something to add to it since it was just perfect with every page and scene: Your Hand In Mine (Goodbye) ). I never expected to develop such an amazing connection with this book. I rooted for so many characters and never completely lost a single one that I loved. I loved the diversity of the characters and the plot. I just didn’t want it to end.

This is one of my absolute favorites, and I’m gonna find myself a hardcopy and read this again and again and again. There wasn’t much of a climax if you go in finding one. It’s just a plain old story.

A day has passed since I wrote the above and the following, but there is a question or two haunting me which weren't answered. I'm gonna go write them in the last chapter's spoiler. I just had to take away start because of that :'(

My Thoughts as I Read:

Chapter 1:

Chapter 2:

Chapter 3:

Chapter 4:

Chapter 5:

Chapter 6:

Chapter 7:

Chapter 8:

Chapter 9:

Chapter 10:

Chapter 11:

Chapter 12:

Chapter 13:

Chapter 14:

Chapter 15:

Chapter 16:

Chapter 17:

Chapter 18:

Chapter 19:

Chapter 20:

Chapter 21:

Chapter 22:/b

Chapter 23:

Chapter 24:

Chapter 25:

Chapter 26:

Chapter 27:
Profile Image for Arah-Lynda.
337 reviews531 followers
November 2, 2016
To many, I was myth incarnate,the embodiment of a most superb legend, a fairy tale.  Some considered me a monster, a mutation.  To my great misfortune, I was once mistaken for an angel.  To my mother, I was everything.  To my father, nothing at all.  To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost.  But I knew the truth - deep down, I always did. I was just a girl.

Magical realism and I do not always get along.  More often than not it leaves me untouched or I shy away from it all together.  But for every rule there is an exception and this book, like fresh baked bread, still warm from the oven, is impossible to resist.

It is so beautiful, soulful and tender, yet it is filled to the brim with death and sorrow.  It is a story about people who cut out their hearts for love, a woman who becomes a canary and a handsome man with his face blown off.  And it is a story about a girl  who is born with wings.  Her name is Ava and she has a twin brother, Henry, who never speaks, at least not for years and when he finally does it is with a mishmash of words and languages that do not make sense to anyone, except perhaps Henry.  

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 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.  

In order to best understand the plight of Ava Lavender, we need to go back, way back, two or three generations, and meet the family Roux.  The story centres on the lives of three women, Emilienne, Vivianne and Ava.  They live in Seattle in a house that stands alone on a hill on Pinnacle Lane.  It is the color of faded periwinkles, with a white wraparound porch and an onion-domed turret with a widow’s walk right up there on top.

It is not a happy go lucky story.  It is at turns dark and violent, with murder and suicide, amid the wreckage of broken hearts. Readers should be warned that there is at least one scene in here that is so dark and violent, in such an unexpected way, that it fare caught my breath and held it hostage for a soul shaking moment or two. Still the prose is delicate and lustrous and lands feather light on all the right notes.

I need to thank karen brissette, who once again has lead me to an unexpected and wonderfully, delectable book.  You should all read her review, it’s brilliant.

And remember:  Just because love don’t look the way you think it should, don’t mean you don’t have it.

4.5 of loves long lost stars
Profile Image for Aj the Ravenous Reader.
1,051 reviews1,049 followers
May 24, 2021
No doubt, one of the strangest stories I’ve ever read but true to its title, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is very beautifully written though also truly very sorrowfully. It’s a mesmerizing tale that riveted me to every word, to the individual stories of the three women of the Lavender lineage that often twisted my heart in pain or sadness but sometimes also cracked my face in unexpected humor. Indeed, love made the characters in the story such fools but it’s also the same thing that moved them to act courageously and heroically. It’s what made some of them able to fly. ;)

The reason for my four stars which I’ll hide in spoiler tags: (Please do not click if you haven’t read the book).
Profile Image for Maureen.
574 reviews4,185 followers
January 10, 2015
This book was beautiful, sad, whimsical, lovely, everything.
It took a little bit for me to get into it but once I was in I was hooked.
It's a lot different than what I was expecting and I'm so glad it was. BEAUTIFUL BOOK.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,172 reviews8,384 followers
September 3, 2015
3.5 stars

Leslye Walton clearly knows how to write. It's whimsical and surreal and stunningly beautiful. If you like the film Big Fish, then I think you'll enjoy this story. It's about a girl who is perfectly normal, minus the fact that she was born with a pair of wings. And it's about her family's history, as she traces the lovelorn experiences of that family's matriarchs.

At times I was completely captivated by her ability to create such a unique and fantastical story. At others I felt like the pacing was moving along so quickly I couldn't absorb everything being told. There is a lot of background information given to you on Ava, her mother, and grandmother. And while the story is by no means action-packed, it's engaging and sharply paced. That left me struggling to really stay grounded, however, in the overall storyline. The latter half of the story lost me a bit with some additional storylines being thrown in, but the writing was always on point.

It's a quick, refreshingly original, and stunning debut novel. But the theme of unrequited love and disappointment was one I had seen too many times before. I can't really say I've read anything like it, though, which is possibly it's best feature and redeeming quality.
Profile Image for Chantal .
343 reviews832 followers
September 29, 2015
“And that might just be the root of the problem: we're all afraid of each other, wings or no wings.”

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is the sort of book that is difficult to describe. I can give you a list of adjectives: strange, beautiful, odd, whimsical, magical, different, unique, tragic, hopeful, melancholy…The book is all those things and so much more. It’s a novel you have to experience for yourself in order to understand its magic.

It’s about grief and loss, desire and hope. But most of all it’s a story about love; all kinds of love, familial and romantic, platonic and unrequited.

“Just because love don't look the way you think it should, don't mean you don't have it.”

Ultimately, it’s a story about life itself. Despite all its magical realism elements the author somehow manages to make events appear more real than most contemporaries do. Everything is honest and raw, yet the author’s phenomenal writing style makes them appear subtle instead of in-your-face. This book impressed me, to say the least.

The novel is not – as the title suggests – a story solely about Ava Lavender, but her entire family, particularly the women. It spans multiple generations and thus comes across both as a historical fiction and a contemporary novel. I personally loved this about the book, the fact that we get different perspectives from different women who have all gone through their own traumatic events that have shaped their worldview. The book is written in first person but most of the time you actually feel like it’s third person as we experience events through these multiple POVs. This makes the story feel more unique and you will come away thinking “I’ve never read anything like this before”.

What I probably loved most about the book was the writing style. It was breathtaking. Beautiful without being overly flowery, on the contrary, it was actually quite simple which made the whole story that much more effective. Leslye Walton is able to create an atmosphere that makes you feel like you are there, experiencing things with the characters. The way the author seamlessly interwove the magical realism elements was masterful and added to the story without distracting from what was actually important. It never felt contrived or unnecessary, instead the whole book felt natural, easy.

The characters were all complex: well-drawn, realistic, jaded. The things that happened to them did not leave them unscathed. They are far from perfect yet still likeable. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a novel driven by characters and atmosphere, not plot. If you’re searching for something action-packed and exciting this book is not it. But it will give you much in return if you invest the time. It’s a quiet novel and it will make you ponder while simultaneously shocking you with the way it describes traumatic events with such simplicity.

Don’t be fooled by the premise: if you’re expecting a light-hearted contemporary you will not find it here. This novel is sad, it is tragic, it unflinchingly portrays the ugly and despicable aspects of life and people. It is at times uncomfortable.

To my mother, I was everything. To my father, nothing at all. To my grandmother, I was a daily reminder of loves long lost.

It reads a lot like a fairy tale, but the original tales, not the watered-down Disney versions.

Now, you are probably all (understandably) confused by my rating. Why only four stars? I have to give a disclaimer here: I read this book during two of what were probably the most uncomfortable weeks of my life. Of course, I try to always be as objective as possible, but we all know that reading entails a certain amount of subjectivity and if you’re having a bad day that will affect the way you are viewing a book. Having said that, I was just never fully immersed in the story. I felt a certain detachment from characters and plot. Part of that I think, was the fact that many characters were established in a relatively short amount of time and so, although they were all complex and realistic, I could never fully grasp them. They felt like real people, but not like people I knew. Thus I sometimes didn’t care as much about them as I would have liked.

However, this book is still excellent and I can only highly recommend it. It’s a truly strange and beautiful novel and I think many will find things to love.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,095 reviews17.7k followers
June 14, 2019
This was absolutely beautiful.

I don't want to describe the plot because this novel works much better when you go in blind. I will say that's it's a very weird book. Go with it, because this book is really really worth it.

When I picked this up, I was immediately drawn in by the writing style. The writing style is also just as gorgeous as every reviewer says. It's lyrical, it's poetic, it's completely unique, and it's absolutely perfect.

I'm someone who reads for characters, and this book succeeded at character work more than most. All the characters really touched my soul. So many characters who show up in only one chapter made me feel things. I have to say Viviane was my favorite character by far, but there were so many GREAT characters. And if there's one character you don't like, there are so many good ones that it really does not matter.

There's a lot of focus here on the small tragedies of life. Almost every character's story has tragedy, and yet the book is so hopeful. I love that. I love stories where the characters go to hell and then come back stronger and better. I just wanted to cry throughout this entire book, especially towards the conclusion.

The ending is very fitting for this story; it can be interpreted as tragic or hopeful, depending on your point of view. While I found one subplot of the last half of this book hard to enjoy, the heartbreak I felt towards the end made up for some of my horror. [major spoiler ahead] There is a fairly graphic rape scene. It is portrayed as wrong, but I honestly didn't enjoy reading this entire subplot. I found it slightly unnecessary to the whole of the book.

I'd recommend this almost without exception. I say “almost” because this book does deserve some trigger warnings– for sexual assault, suicide, and a brief scene of violent homophobia. Be safe, guys!
Profile Image for Argona.
169 reviews259 followers
October 19, 2015
First of all, please pay attention to the word “Sorrows” that is right there in the title and take it very seriously. I didn’t and I paid for it! *coughs* Back to the review, I will do my best to avoid spoilers as much as possible and I will try to be vague.

I read this book in a buddy read with my dear friend, Roya. Thank Roya!*Waves* I admit only the magical powers of buddy read could have pulled me through the beginning of this book. As mentioned by other reviewers, this isn’t only story of Ava. It’s actually the story of three generations of women and all the people around them so the beginning was a little hard to get into. I continued to read and I finally got pulled into the story thanks to the writing.

I found the writing absolutely beautiful. So beautiful that it helped me to get over the stupidity of the characters. I found it almost lyrical and poetic. Leslye Walton knows how to write! Magical realism is one of my favorite genres and thanks to the amazing writing, I started to really enjoy this story.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the story and characters as strong and as compelling as the writing. I enjoyed this book while I was reading it but my opinion about the story lowered after finishing it and the more I thought about it. There is hardly a plot or a central story. If you ask me about the story, I might blink a lot and just stare at you. This is simply the story of generations of one magical family and their tragic experiences when it comes to love. I am sorry to say I had many problems with this family and their story.

First, the beginning chapters contain tragedy after tragedy. So much that it felt forced and too much to me. All these catastrophes in one family? I thought this is magical REALISM!

Second, many times I couldn’t relate to characters and their choice of action. I simply can’t relate to a woman that makes love to a man that has betrayed her, is abandoning her and is marrying another woman. I can’t relate to a woman that stays in love with such a man for years and ignores another man that actually stays with her through all this time, protecting her and all that she loves. A man that she actually finds attractive but ignores to avoid heartbreak! So…you still love the first one but you don’t want to give this one a chance? This hardly makes sense to me.

Also, I can’t relate to a man that fights for a girl all through his childhood and adolescent, periods of life that a child really craves parents’ attention and approval, and then suddenly decides to abandon this woman when he becomes an independent adult just to gain the said approval.

I can imagine dragons very easily but I have a hard time imagining such stupid human-beings.

My other problem is the message of this book. I thought about it and I found it unclear, vague and even wrong. Was it the power of hope? Nope. Hope is hardly mentioned. Was it staying positive? Nope, most healing processes just happen magically. Was it giving life a second chance? Maybe. None of these messages were highlighted enough in this story and all attention was focused on this one message: “Love makes us such fools.”

Really? I can’t accept this. To me, being in love is not a good excuse to steal someone else’s husband. Being in love, does not justify it to sleep with your sister’s fiance and have his child. It’s not ok to cheat on your wife and then murder your lover because you’re in love. It’s not ok to volunteer for a bullet in the face just because you’re in love! It’s not ok to turn yourself into a damn bird forever because you want a man to notice you and he is into birds! How stupid is that? I know symbolism plays an important role in magical realism but a story has to make sense and have a meaning. I find this kind of message wrong and unhealthy! Get help people!

Don’t get me wrong, there are also beautiful examples of love in this book. There are people that marry out of necessity and grow to love each other after getting to know each other. There is friendship and love between two little girls all throughout their lives. There is a man loving a broken woman for years and never asking for anything in return. There is a man that nurtures another man’s children for years and considers them his own. There is love between mother and daughter. There is love and friendship between two damaged but strong women that decide to rely on each other to get through life. Somewhere near the end, I read this quote and I found it absolutely amazing and beautiful:

“Just because love don't look the way you think it should, don't mean you don't have it.”

I was so ready to give this book a high rating. I thought the story is about to let go of all those foolish and harmful versions of love from the beginning of the story. That now it wants to draw attention to these vague but beautiful examples of love that I mentioned above. To love in disguise! But I am afraid this was not the case and those foolish and twisted versions of love took many more pages compared to these.

The story was very predictable. It spent pages building up to a particular tragedy and it was very obvious about it. Many pages were used to build up into this tragedy and yet very little goes to what happens after the tragedy, its effect on people and the healing process. Sometimes people appreciate life more after near-death experiences and I was hoping to read about these changes in people around the victim but I was disappointed to read only a few sentences regarding each character. It’ true that tragedy can make people reevaluate their priorities in life in very little time but I simply needed to read more about these changes to find a deep meaning in them. I was even more surprised that the victim’s healing process only took a few pages. In just a few chapters, very short chapters, she gets over the trauma and finds the resolution to live and love again. It just happens! Magically! Very disappointing. Again, what happened to the realistic aspect of the story? People are supposed to magically regain hope and positivity after reading all the tragedy and misery in this book. How does this help a depressed reader or a person that currently struggles with life?

My other problem with this book is what I call plot holes. I actually really love nonsense stories that have their own unique logic, like "Alice in Wonderland" or "Howl's moving castle" but I had a hard time finding much logic in many parts of this story. There are ghosts that can communicate with certain members of a magical family. They want to warn the family against a horrifying tragedy that is about to happen to one of the members of this family. They don’t communicate with the poor victim at all and I assumed they couldn’t but right before the end and AFTER the tragedy, they easily engage in conversations with her. Why didn’t you choose to warn HER then? And not everyone else besides her?

Also, turns out these ghosts can burn a human-being into crisp. I think I understand why they didn’t attack the villain before the actual crime. Perhaps they were giving him the benefit of doubt or they couldn’t get involved before any wrongs was actually committed. But how come they didn’t stop him in the middle of the said horrifying brutal act when they obviously could? Why chase him and kill him afterwards? Clearly they could wonder around and weren’t even bound to a certain building or individual.

Also there is this little girl that wonders around and alternates between being like a vampire and a ghost. Who? What?

I almost forgot, the story is told from first person POV and yet the narrator knows what was going on in the minds of family members that die before her birth! How does she know such details about her ancestors? I KNOW! MAGIC! *Gasps*

And last but not least, the ending! It was not very satisfactory. I kept thinking that surely the author has a purpose for listing all these sorrows and miseries. Surely the story is going to end with a very positive message. It did. Kind of. I think? I thought very hard and I found it somewhere in the last pages. After generations, one woman chooses to give love a second chance and take the leap at the right time. Not freaking 15 years later! So good messages are there too but you have to grab a shovel and dig.

All in all, this book was beautifully melancholic. The story was memorable and atmospheric. Leslye Walton is very talented when it comes to writing. She paints with words! There isn’t really a solid plot but the story moves in a lovely flow thanks to this writing. This book has many positive reviews and there is a high chance that you’re going to love it so ignore all this rambling that you wasted your life reading and give it a try.

At the end, Platypuses are cute! There is nothing wrong with them and their existence is not stupid or pointless! Thank you very much!

Profile Image for Emily.
706 reviews2,045 followers
May 9, 2014
Y'all I really hated this book, but I couldn't tell if it was me or the writing. This is a YA version of Middlesex that attempts the most saccharine, insincere brand of magical realism I've ever read. I might have been able to stomach a short story written in this style, but all 300 pages of this was too much of a gigantic eyeroll.

And I tried! I really did! I may be a cynic with no heart, but sometimes I can stuff that part of my brain into a little box and let myself be absorbed in the story, whatever its inconsistencies. But it honestly feels like this book was written in this kitchen:

and I just could not get past the fact that, at its core, this book has an inauthentic heart that's full of cliches about "love." It uses magical realism not to enhance the story but to draw attention away from the fact that THIS BOOK HAS NO CENTRAL STORY. I utterly reject the idea that the central story is love's redeeming power. In the context of the ending, that's horrible.

To be fair, Leslye Walton completely commits to her world, and she's not afraid to pull her magic into the macabre: a character in the first chapter carves out her still-beating heart to offer it up for her wrongdoing. There's real sadness and pain here, but it's overshadowed by how tritely it's written and how flat the characters are. Now that I'm thinking of it, this actually reminds me of a less successful Pushing Daisies:

In a story set in the late 1950s where the peripheral characters are named things like Ignatius Lux, Cardigan Cooper (!), and Laura Lovelorn - guess what her main character arc is - it's hard not to see the parallels. Except that I hated all the characters, especially the cartoonish, unsatisfying relationship between Viviane and Jack, and I especially hated Rowe Cooper, though throwing in a stutter as a cute characteristic is a surefire way to win my enmity (I'm looking at you, too, Glee!).


So yes, I think this book will do very well on Tumblr (direct quote: "broken hearts smelled surprisingly sweet"), and Leslye Walton will be a successful YA author, and we shall all probably have to suffer through future books that come out of her middle-school creative writing workshops, and I will continue to be puzzled by all of the reviewers who are "dazzled" by this book. Ava Lavender, I am NOT sorry to see you go.
Profile Image for ✨    jami   ✨.
679 reviews3,947 followers
April 2, 2018
“Love makes us such fools.”

Well the title pretty much says it all. This book was so strange and so beautiful. the writing pretty much immediately drew me in because it's so pretty and probably the lilting, lyrical prose accompanied with the meandering, flowing plot was my favourite thing about this book.

I get the ending of this book is controversial and I'm firmly in the didn't like it camp. It really took down my enjoyment of this book. But I still really enjoyed this overall. The characters were so beautifully written and I loved the tracking of their lives. I became so attached to these characters and sympathised so much with their hurt, pain, love and growth. Viviane especially I adored, but really all the characters were brilliant. The women especially. I loved that this book showcased such strong relationships between women.

I do feel like talking about this book too much is a bit pointless since I am literally the last person to read this ever but I think the above pretty much sums it up. Beautiful prose, beautiful characters. This book had such a lovely warm feel about it despite how much tragedy and heartbreak and hurt it dealt with. And I just really loved how slowly it gently this book unfolded, even if everything happening was kind of sad. While I really disliked the end, I still enjoyed 90% of this book anyway.

I do think this book is incredibly hard to explain though, you really just need to open it and read it and you'll understand what everyone is talking about by "strange and beautiful" straight away.

trigger warnings for: graphic rape, suicide, graphic depictions of violence, alcoholism
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