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The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender Hardcover – Mar 25 2014

4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (March 25 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763665665
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763665661
  • Product Dimensions: 14.7 x 2.5 x 21.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 386 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #132,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


[A]n entrancing and sumptuously written multigenerational novel wrapped in the language of fable, magical realism, and local legend. ... Walton's novel builds to a brutal but triumphant conclusion. It's a story that adults and teenagers can appreciate equally.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Walton’s novel is both strange and beautiful in the best of ways. ... This multigenerational tale examines love and considers the conflicting facets of loving and being loved -- desire, despair, depression, obsession, self-love, and courage. ... It is beautifully crafted and paced, mystical yet grounded by universal themes and sympathetic characters. A unique book, highly recommended for readers looking for something a step away from ordinary.
—School Library Journal (starred review)

This love story by debut YA author Leslye Walton is as rare and perfect as Mona Lisa’s smile.
—Ellen Klein, Hooray for Books! (Alexandria, VA)

It is just as the title suggests, both strange and beautiful, and should be read by every lover of books, regardless of their age.
—Becky Quiroga Curtis, Books & Books (Coral Gables, FL)

This remarkable, magic-laced family history continues and spreads to other members of Ava’s Seattle neighborhood to produce a gauzy narrative of love and loss... [An] intentionally artful tale.
—Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

This magical lyrical story is a beautifully written novel with much to offer readers. ... Exquisite.
—Library Media Connection

[Ava's voice] is a beautiful voice—poetic, witty, and as honest as family mythology will allow. There are many sorrows in Walton’s debut, and most of them are Ava’s through inheritance. Readers should prepare themselves for a tale where myth and reality, lust and love, the corporal and the ghostly, are interchangeable and surprising.

The story’s language is gorgeous.
—Kirkus Reviews

In a sweeping intergenerational story infused with magical realism, debut author Leslye Walton tethers grand themes of love and loss to the earthbound sensibility of Ava Lavender as she recollects one life-altering summer as a teenager. ... Walton presents challenges that most teens will hopefully never face. She writes of love, betrayal, birth, murder, affection and rape--and wraps them in prose so radiant that readers feel carried by Ava's narrative. The heroine's humor and wisdom as she looks back at her life let us know that she is a survivor.
—Shelf Awareness (starred review)

This. Book. Stole. Our. Hearts. It unfolds like a hauntingly beautiful dream (or is it a gorgeous nightmare?)... Strange and beautiful... violent and gorgeous. You gotta read it. A must-read for fans of beautiful monsters like Miss Peregrine's.
—Justine Magazine

Using detailed imagery and an almost mythical storytelling style, teenage Ava tells the history of four generations of her family. ... [Teens] willing to enter Ava’s world on its own terms will find themselves richly rewarded.

[Ava] 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. ... 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.

First-time novelist Leslye Walton has crafted a beautiful, haunting family history that spans generations and continents. The story’s narrator, Ava, is achingly believable. ... "The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender" is not a typical love story. Walton’s tale, by turns tragic and comic, expects readers to explore the big questions love raises — why do we love the people we love, and why do we hold on to love that hurts?
—The Times-News

[This novel] should be remembered for the devastatingly beautiful character of Ava Lavender and how she depicts just what it is to be different.
—The Guardian

Foolish love and flight are Ava's family inheritance. Magical realism colors this tale of a girl normal but for the wings with which she was born.
—San Francisco Chronicle

The characters are rich and familiar, and Walton does whimsy with a healthy dose of melancholy and tragedy. The storytelling is completely beautiful... A particularly toothsome and pleasurable read.
—Toronto Globe and Mail

About the Author

Leslye Walton says that The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender began as a short story that came to her while listening to a song. She has an MA in writing, and this is her first novel. Walton is a native of Tacoma, Washington, and she currently teaches middle school in Seattle.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
3.5/5 stars

"In one fluid motion, Viviane dropped the soapy sponge, flew down the porch stairs and around to the backyard to find me, leaving Henry on the porch, pounding his ears with his open palms. As she ran, my mother thought, This is it. This is the reason not to love. If I didn't love, then whatever I find, no matter how awful, wouldn't hurt."

To me, this was a pretty book. It was one of those reads that make you feel like it's worth something, but the reason why is unexplainable. The concept is gorgeous, and thoroughly unique, but with some confusions in between. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender was a great read, but it kept me questioning too often.

For a majority of 50% of the book (about) we hear about Ava's relatives's lives, including her grandmother, Emilienne, and her mother, Viviane. Many people have noted that it didn't make sense to speak about their lives for such a long length of pages (especially since the book is 301 pages itself), but I loved hearing about them. Their stories brought Ava's to life, and it brought a little more sense into "why."

We hear about their lives, and how they fell in love and how they lost everything. Both people did, and know it's Ava's turn to. But Ava is someone unique. She is different. She is often mistaken as many things--as a monster, angel, weird creature.

This story is light and fluffy, but dark and messed up at the same time. Some parts of it maybe be all sugar and spice, while others just become horrifying. It's mainly dark, but there's that burst of light sitting there. Yes, the cover doesn't explain too much. It looks super chick-lity and girly for the actual taste of the novel.

I enjoyed this book very much.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) HASH(0xa600eb70) out of 5 stars 206 reviews
34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa604a978) out of 5 stars Love is not a strong enough word in this case. April 11 2014
By Jamie - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Why I chose this book:
Honestly, I knew nothing about this book before I opened the cover. Even after reading the synopsis, I couldn't tell you what it was about. I had no clue why I wanted to read it so badly, but I did. So, I filled out a purchase request at the library, and when it came in--slightly before the release date--I had to sneak a peek. And I almost couldn't put it down.

4 Things You Should Know:

1. This is not your grandma's love story.
Ava may be the main character, but the book is about more than just her. The women of the Roux family have a long and sorrowful history of ill-fated love, which Ava catalogues faithfully, beginning with her great-grandmother. Told from Ava’s contemporary point-of-view, she chronicles the lives and deaths of her ancestors, as well as the peculiarly tragic ways in which love made fools of them. Ava herself does not reach the story of her own life until the middle of the book. When I encounter a novel like this, one that reaches far back into the ancestral well of despair, I usually grumble, sigh, and settle in for the ride, prepared to make the requisite investment in past lives and hoping the payoff at the end will be worth it. However, this was not the case. At all. I was as riveted by the three previous generations of Roux women as I was by Ava herself. Each character was so carefully recorded, each taking turns in the spot-light, that my heart was breaking alongside of theirs at every turn of the page.

2. Is this real life?
Magical realism--the straight-faced portrayal of events and circumstances so obviously otherworldly--is one of my favorite literary devices, and Walton folds magic into her prose so beautifully, I never question the little oddities that plague the Roux family. Her great grand-mere simply dissolves into a pile of dust. One great aunt transforms into a canary, the other carves out her own heart, and they both insist on haunting Ava’s grandmother. Ava’s mother has a nose able to distill someone’s very essence from the air. Her brother is a fairly mute boy with a talent for drawing maps and talking to ghosts, while Ava herself is born with the speckled wings of a bird. All these things seem highly unbelievable, yet Walton so tenderly relays these facts that I don’t doubt her for a single syllable.

3. Whimsicality
Quirky, eccentric, playful, quaint. Call it what you want, but Walton’s writing is marvelous. Literary without being pompous and whimsical without reaching the outlandish, Walton’s writing had me swooning from page one. Her seamless fusion of magical realism and a documentary-like structure melds in the gentle cadence of her lyrical prose. Every sentence had me rapt, and I could’t turn the pages fast enough.

4. Let me count the ways
Walton tackles every kind of love you can think of, from filial, to platonic, unrequited and purely lustful. She unrelentingly shows how each of these can destroy you, and how that destruction can define you. But she also demonstrates the maddeningly human quality of choosing, again and again, to love. She begs the ultimate question of why it is we love, and presents an answer both poignant and optimistic.

Final Thoughts
Heartbreaking, haunting, and yet strangely hopeful, this book was so very unlike anything else I've read. It was oddly whimsical and literary, two things that don't often pop up in YA. But it was also heartfelt and utterly engrossing. Less than three pages in, I was hooked. By fifty pages, I was on Amazon ordering my own copy, knowing full well I would finish the book before the package even came. The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender just may be my favorite read of the year.

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23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa604abc4) out of 5 stars Effortlessly captures the nuances of the heart March 22 2016
By FLYLēF Book Reviews - Published on
Format: Paperback
Original Post: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender at FLYLēF Book Reviews (

"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 Wilhelmina Lavender."

MY EMOTIONS ARE raw, and conflicting. On the one hand, I never quite connected with these characters. But on the other hand, the story, this ending, was so gut-wrenching that it ripped me to pieces—glorious little particles.

In The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender (absolutely gorgeous title), first-time author Leslye Walton creates a heartbreaking and heart-healing tale of regret and redemption of characters haunted by their past. The Roux family has experienced more than their share of heartaches. Can their newest members—twins Ava and Henry—put an end to their family’s tragic legacy?

Ava is such a lovely character. The story is told from her POV. I thought it was quite melodic and soothing, even though I didn’t always find it particular engaging. For much of the book, Ava takes me on long narratives recounting generations of family history. I drifted from one Roux member to another, and then back again, never staying with one ancestor long enough to develop any solid connections. Sometimes I found them whimsical, but mostly I found them eccentric and unrelatable.

It isn’t until the arrival of Nathaniel Sorrows that the story finally has a point of conflict. The pious Nathaniel mistakes Ava for an angel. His obsession for her grows until the night of the summer solstice—taking the story to a fever-pitched.

Before I leave to pick up the pieces of me, I’d like to share that, overall, I enjoyed The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. It is undoubtably very original. Ms. Walton writes with the kind of wisdom and compassion that effortlessly captures the nuances of the heart. She beautifully renders emotions perfectly capturing the evisceration of love and loss.

"I loved you before, Ava. Let me love you still." ~Rowe
39 of 48 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa604ae04) out of 5 stars Gorgeous Writing But DEADLY Boring April 9 2014
By PaperFury - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition
Yes, I've given this a low star-rating. Yes, I'm also horrified. Yes, I'm also mostly alone in my feelings of this book (it has a 4.10 average star rating on Goodreads!). And no, I will not be saying the title five times fast while I turn in a circle and pat my head. (But YOU can try it if you like.)

The ugly truth is: this book just didn't click with me.

And I wanted to like it! I really, really did! I'm utterly in love with the cover and the title. (Ava Lavender?! Isn't that just the most gorgeous name ever?!) It comes out in late March, but I read it on the 3rd of February because I was so excited for it.

Writing? Personally, I felt it was written like a very beautiful text book. History. There's hardly any scenes, hardly any dialogue. The first 120 pages are before Ava is even born! That's nearly HALF the book. It's not just about Ava Lavender (and this is where I get annoyed at the blurb, because it really tells you nothing about the book): it's about Ava's whole family history. Which is...interesting. But mildly boring.

I like scenes and dialogue and character-driven plots. This didn't have any of that.

It's all very tragic and beautiful though. I love the flow of the prose. It feels lyrical, definitely. The description really pops. They don't just say "cake" they say "butterscotch brownies". Every word feels well thought-out.

I was just so bored while I was appreciating the gorgeousness.

The names are fabulous! Some authors are just blessed with the ability to give the best names. Not only do we have Ava Lavender, we have Laura Lovelorn, Cardigan Cooper, Marigold Pie, Beauregard Roux, Viviane Lavender (that's Ava's mother) and Emilienne Roux. I lovelovelove it.

It was just the writing style of telling-telling-telling history event after event...that drove me crazy.

I really wanted to like this book. But to be strictly honest with you, it wasn't for me. That doesn't mean you won't like it!
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa604f174) out of 5 stars Oh My Books! Review March 25 2014
By Gaby - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition

I've read a couple of times magical-realism but wasn't expecting to find it in a Young Adult book. I really didn't know what to expect from Ava, a sixteen-year old girl born with wings, sometimes mistaken for an angel.

The book starts with Ava's grandmother, the story about her parents and brothers, and how everything in the end is connected to Ava. Their family story and writing reminded me of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, definitely a plus for me.

I was hooked since the beginning, Ava's grandmother and mother both had a difficult life as consequence to foolish love. But Ava was a great girl, not only for having wings, but for her way to see life. Her family have been always the 'weird', but she's ready to face the world, very naive and not expecting her life to be so tragic.

Love. Ah. It's about love, but I wouldn't call it a romance book. It's realistic love, not happily ever after love, and more than narrating a romance, it's about how some relationships turn out being very sad and affect the lives of everyone around.

It may not be a book for everyone, it's not superficial or trivial, but I absolutely loved it! (although it broke my heart a couple of times). It only took me a few hours to read it, but who needs sleep right?. I definitely recommend it! Excellent addition to the YA literature.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0xa604f384) out of 5 stars "Love can make us such fools." April 8 2014
By E.M. Bristol - Published on
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product
Born with wings but doomed (seemingly) to a grounded life, Ava Lavender is kept secluded in her Seattle home by a mother with a thousand excuses as to why it's safer this way. Without much in the way of external stimulation, her thoughts turn toward her ancestors and how their peculiarities might have wound up producing a girl like her. "The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender" is the story of her family, a truly odd clan, who emigrated from a small French village. Her great-grandfather, Beauregard Roux, brought his three daughters and one son to a place he called "Manhatine," which turned out to be not nearly as wonderful as expected. Peculiar things began happening to the family, including one transforming herself into a canary. Later, their ghosts would return to haunt Ava's mother, Viviane, and her grandmother, Emilienne, and play a crucial role when Ava, as a young woman, suffers a gruesome tragedy.

This book and its magic realism reminded me strongly of Alice Hoffman's novels, particularly "Practical Magic." The two both involve several generations of women who deal with local prejudice that they may be witches, and who, unable to rely on the rather feckless men in their lives, manage to earn their own living. In this case, the Lavender clan, with the help of another woman, begin and run a highly successful bakery. Still, there are dangers awaiting their family that only their son, absorbed in a world of his own, realize. When Ava, with the help of a girlfriend and her older brother, eventually begins to venture out into the world, as she grows up, she revels in her newfound freedom, but is unaware of a threat close to home. In the end, both the Lavenders and the townspeople learn a very important lesson about what's truly important and the hazard of judging solely by appearances.

"The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows," turns dark and violent toward the end; it's Alice Hoffman by way of say, Stephen King. However, it is an unique book, and Ada's voice is distinct and as lovely as her name.