Book Talk: The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

Book Talk: The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye WaltonThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Published by Candlewick on 2014
Genres: YA Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought

I received this book for review consideration from the publisher. This in no way swayed my opinion of the book. Pinky swear!




Want an “at a glance” look at what I thought? Check out my Review On A Post-It or my “Final Thought”



Ava, a girl born with wings, was also born to a family line who has experienced pain and loss along the way. Ava brings us her story but first tells the stories of her grandmother and mother who paved the path to where she is. Her grandmother is closed off and distant. Her mother is forever heartbroken. And Ava, the girl born with wings, has been isolated in her house away from people until, at 16, she decides she wants to find out where she could fit in with the world as a girl with wings — unprepared how others will regard her and her wings or the motives of an obsessed man who thinks she is an angel.

ALERT: as I type this the book is $1.99 for Kindle!!



*me falling in love with magical realism all over again*

a4Back in my senior year of high school and early on in college I looooooved Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I didn’t know the term for what it was that he did when I first started reading him but I loved the beautiful bits of magic in an otherwise realistic story. I learned later that it was called magical realism. I kind of stopped reading for a little bit after discovering his books (a very unfortunate time on the timeline of my reading history ) so I didn’t delve into much more magical realism after but the ones I did never made me feel the way I did when I read his. I wanted the sweeping epic generational stories, the deep in your gut emotions and heartache and the perfect blend of the magic.

I can’t compare The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavendar to a Marquez novel (I mean, it would have had to get about 100% more verbose to compete with that haha) but I will say it made me feel similarly to how I felt reading his novels with the generational saga full, the emotions, the magic and beautiful writing. But add more whimsy and maybe even a little more connection to the characters.

I loved that it was this generational family saga of the Roux family told by Ava Lavender — who is a direct descendant and the latest woman in the line. We get the relevant family history and then it brings us to her story as a child/teen. The family history is sad. So sad. Just sorrow that makes your heart want to jump out of your body so it can go pet puppies to relieve it of the embedded sadness. It’s full of pain and loss and we see why her family is the way they are.

I fell in love with Ava as well as her mother, Vivian, and her grandmother, Emilienne. The history of these two really shape Ava and oh man did their stories make me heart ache. You really get a sense for why they are the way they are — why Emilienne is distant and closed off, why Vivian is so physically tormented by a former lover. Everyone has experienced such burning loss that they keep to themselves and are reluctant to let people in.

Ah and Ava — the girl born with wings. Wings that she can’t fly with. Wings that make her have to be isolated from the rest of the world. Wings that make people maybe she is of the supernatural. But really they are just wings and Ava is Ava — who is pretty spectacular. I really wanted even MORE of Ava’s story if I’m honest. I loved her and I felt her longing to be part of the world but not know where she fits at all. What happens to her made me sick to my stomach and my eyes finding themselves with an overload of tears.

It’s the beautiful and peculiar characters of this novel that made me love it. It’s the way the bakery and the town feel like characters in their own. It is the writing and the luscious descriptions. It is brand of a family saga that I love. A style of magical realism that is so flawless and works really well for me. There’s just so much that worked for me yet I have a hard time feeling like I could do it justice because it truly is that kind of book that you just have to try for yourself and feel the magic mesmerize you.



factors+ prose, the flawless magical realism, the characters, the story
–  maybe more Ava after adolescence in a prologue or something. 

Should you read it? I think so but I know it’s totally not going to be everyone’s thing. If you are okay with something that isn’t like much out there in YA…I say yes! If you love magical realism, absolutely!

Should you buy it or borrow it? I plan to keep my copy on my shelf because I could see myself wanting a reread one day but if you are new to the genre I will say borrow it. If you KNOW you love whimsical and peculiar stories then I say buy it.

a5fans of magical realism (especially if you like the generational sagas of Gabriel Garcia Marquez), readers who are okay with a meandering plot for the first half, fans of things that are whimsical and strange, people who like gorgeous prose, readers who are looking for something different in their YA diet

a8I know this won’t be a book for everyone but I truly loved it — the story of 3 generations of women, the magic so perfectly woven throughout, the gamut of emotions it made me experience, the beautiful prose. It certainly made me fall in love with magical realism all over again. If you are new to magical realism and I’ve piqued your interest…I’d definitely start with this one! I read it for my book club and I’m excited to see what everyone thought!



a8j* Have you read this one? What did you think? Similar or different from me? I would LOVE to hear regardless! Who was your favorite character? Did anyone else just want to smoosh Vivienne and a certain someone together and be like OPEN YO EYES?
*If you haven’t read it, does it feel like something you’d be into?
Tell me some of your favorite magical realism books!



The Perpetual Page-Turner

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. Thank you for the recommendation. I love love love Gabriel García Márquez. I bought the book immediately and I’m excited to read it! BTW, I love your blog.

  2. I completely agree. This book is so beautiful
    It’s the kind of book you wish you could read over and over like the first time.

  3. I bought this a couple of days ago because it is a $1.99 ebook right now. I am glad it gets your stamp of approval! I am keeping my eye out on bookoutlet for a hardcover because it is so pretty. Thanks for the review.. I will be moving this up on my TBR. 👍

  4. $1.99 AND magical realism, I’m in. I’m a big fan of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, and Jose Saramago who I suspect are the holy trinity of magical realism books, so if there’s a YA magical realism book I’d love to read it. With this book and Bone Gap, I hope YA magical realism is becoming more of a trend.

  5. I read this book during the middle of last year and I love it, it was the first time I’d read a book in the genre ‘magical realism’ and I must say I really loved it! Vivian’s story broke my heart, I think I was sobbing while I was reading her story *sobs*

  6. I never did quite end up reading The Strange & Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, but after seeing your thoughts here, I kind of feel like I should. While magic realism doesn’t always work for me, there are the rare occasions when it does – and I’m TRULY hoping that this novel will be one that I enjoy. I really find myself curious about Ava, and that alone makes me want to read it!

  7. I really enjoyed Ava. It took me a while to get into the story but I was so glad I did. I’m really enjoying the magical realism element in books now more than before 🙂

  8. My reaction to this book is mostly similar to yours. I’m a huge fan of magical realism and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and I adored the writing style of this book… BUT I really wish we’d gotten more of Ava Lavender’s adult life. The book feels mis-titled – I fell in love with the first 3 generations of Ava’s family, but then we don’t get much time with Ava herself.

  9. I’ve been meaning to give this one a read so I’ll definitely look at for it next time I hit the library!

  10. I really want to reread this novel. I absolutely adored it when I read it a few years ago as a galley and I’ve always wanted my own finish copy that I can mark up with annotations and squeals. One of my favorite things about this novel was the subtle symbolism that I caught throughout the novel; for example sorrow was both a recurring factor the family experienced, but also was caused to the next generation by a man called Sorrow. I love that kind of stuff. Walton did a brilliant job and I’m still waiting on her next novel. Glad you loved this one!

  11. I loved this book so much!! I’m a huge fan of magical realism though so that might be why. I also really loved The Weight of Feathers which I think is similar to Ava Lavender in a lot of ways (if you haven’t read that one yet, I really recommend it!).

  12. I loved this book but I agree, the key attention grabbing feature is Ava’s wings. I would like to know more about Ava, even though I understand the other characters provide detailed background info. I would say good for mundane magical realism, it’s not too out there to be unbelievable but magical enough to keep your attention.

  13. Oh! Magical Realism! I didn’t know that was in this book, and now I’m regretting not buying it when I saw it at Target forever ago. I have an Amazon gift card, though, so I might go grab it right now!

  14. Great review! I have been wanting to read this for a while, and was so excited to see the current price on Kindle. Thank you so much for that! I just bought it. 🙂

  15. I’m really glad you liked this one. I wound up deciding to skip it because I heard it was a little . . . gritty . . . but it’s always nice to see people loving a book.
    Have you read The Weight of Feathers by Anne-Marie McLemore yet? It’s an obvious read-a-like for this with the whole “wings” angle and as a magic realism novel, it’s also very impressive.

  16. If you loved this one you should definitely read Bone Gap by Laura Ruby. Have you read it? Did you like it? I thought it was so amazing. It was my favorite book of 2015 and the Printz winner.

  17. I just finished reading this one, and OMG! It’s so beautiful! I was having tough time reviewing it. Your review gives me strength! I will get back to work now! 🙂