“Just because love don’t look the way you think it should don’t mean you don’t have it”
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton is, above all, a book about love. Don’t be mistaken: this is not a romance. The book features all sorts of love, but perhaps my favourite part is that none of the love stories turn out as expected. Perhaps the reason why I like this book so much is because it’s all about foiled love, and how love is never what we want it to be. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about love, and how what the media portrays in regards to love and romance is so far from reality; it’s the love stories we want, not the stories we actually have. This novel subverts that, and I can’t help but think it’s one of the most authentic novels about love I have ever read.
The book is strange. There’s elements of fantasy, but the world feels thoroughly like out own. It’s not a stretch to wonder if this novel is fantastical, or if all the fantasies are simply metaphors for real world conditions and emotions. When you begin to question the fantasy, so many new layers are added to the story, but even if you simply accept the magic as is, the book still holds incredible depth. As I said before, the book really is a question about love, but it is also about identity, and how love shapes who we are– for better or for worse.
The beginning is a bit slow, and I found it was easy to forget little details as I read through the novel as it does span across 4 generations. I often forgot who characters were, or details that would have made the story a lot clearer (i.e., I forgot Henry’s ‘gift’ so to speak until the very end). This is in part due to the writing, which is very dreamy and can easily float away from you. It’s also in part due to pacing, as the plot is more “slice of life” than “fantasy adventure.” It is also in part to due to how I read a novel: this is a novel that demands quiet contemplation and not binge-reading in a night or two. That took me some time to get used to.
The last thing I want to mention is the ending. The end of the novel is pretty clear, but I think it’s also open for interpretation. There’s a lot of different ways to read it, and if I love anything, it’s an ambiguous ending. One version of the ending is a lot easier to accept as true, but I find the second version is more satisfying, in a way, and just adds that much more to the story. If you read the novel, you’ll have to let me know if you felt like the end was ambiguous, and what you’re thoughts are on it, or if I’m just reading too much into it.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a lovely little book. It reminds me of cozy weekends curled up on a couch and sipping tea. It’s a book that demands to be considered, and I think it is quite philosophical in a lot of ways. I love the “realistic” fantasy elements to it, and how easily they can be thought of as metaphors and symbols. This is a story about real love, not the kind of love we want but the kind of love we experience, and for that, I love this book.
3.5 wing feathers out of 5.