The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender


It is my policy to approach books that are known to make people cry with extreme caution. Extreme - I'm going to delay this inevitable sob-fest for as long as I can - caution. This is primarily because I am what some people call an 'ugly crier'; puffy eyes, gravity-defying snot, and a wail like a rubber chicken.

Well, I didn't know that this book was going to quite do that to me so, during a particularly quiet weekend (ha, who am I kidding, now that I'm older my idea of an exciting weekend is discovering a new kind of non-dairy milk to have in my tea), I sat down with the intention of reading a few chapters. Fast forward a few hours later, I've blitzed through and I'm curled up in a foetal position with tears and snot streaming down my face - but I'm not crying because of what happens. I'm crying because I've finished the book and I've just realised that it's not part of a series and therefore - and this still puts a lump in my throat - there is no more left to be read.

Ava Lavender is a girl who was born with wings in an otherwise supposedly ordinary Seattle town. As much as the book is about her trying to find her place in the world, it also traces her family's history as it catches up to her in the present day. The family history weaved into the narrative is a beautiful, sorrowful tale of a slightly odd family who move from France to America and find themselves in many strange situations, with love always being there to trip them up time and time again. It is slightly reminicent of Jeffery Eugenidies' Middlesex, with its multi-generational immigrant story. The brilliance of the story-telling is able to whisk you away so that the healthy smattering of magical realism, remarkably, ends up seeming quite ordinary. Why wouldn't a woman turn into a canary after falling in love with a bird-watcher?

This book is now one of my all-time favourites. Just thinking about it makes my chest constrict and my stomach knot, like I'm fourteen again and my hormones are making my stomach do flip-flops whenever I see my crush. Please do go read it, and I would love to hear what you thought of it.

Rating: 5/5