Book Review: The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

by The Dreamer

I found it ironic that I should be blessed with wings and yet feel so constrained, so trapped. It was because of my condition, I believe, that I noticed life’s ironies a bit more often than the average person. I collected them: how love arrived when you least expected it, how someone who said he didn’t want to hurt you eventually would.”

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

Leslye Walton


It’s hard not to be attracted by a title like “The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender”. Right from the start, as I ran my hands along the gorgeous binding of the book (yes, I sorta have a fetish for beautifully-binded books), marveled at the gold trimmings that shimmered under the dim library light, I knew this book was something special. As a frequent library visitor, I immediately know when a new novel has arrived. I knew at once that Ava Lavender was newly purchased by the librarians, because its pages were white, the cover pristine and I liked to indulge in the fact that I may or may have not been the first person to thumb through the novel.

But enough about the appearance of the novel, and onto the content.

This novel revolves around this quote: “Love makes us such fools.”

The moment I finished this book, I knew that it was a novel that I had to add into my personal collection ASAP. In fact, after this review, I’m headed to the bookstore. That was how much I seriously LOVED LOVED LOVED this book.

Do you remember fairy tales in its elemental form, before Disney interwove a happily-ever-after into each story? Remember The Little Mermaid who turned into sea foam because of her yearn to attain something that was never hers? Or Sleeping Beauty that was raped by a passing king? Ava Lavender reminded me of these tales. Not trying to emphasize that it was gruesome or anything, because it is definitely not.

This novel tells a truthful and melancholy fiction about love, before it was cleansed and moderated for the “delicacy” of young people’s minds. It combats with death, grief and loss. This book is not like any other I’ve read.

There is Ava, a girl born with wings. Her mother, fallen hopelessly in love with her neighbour since six, but unable to hold him in her arms. Her grandmother, who is followed by her dead siblings with faces shot off and hearts carved out. This book deals with impossible loves, betrayals and desire and lets the readers suffer with the three generations of women who had too many not-meant-to-bes. It is especially honest and breathtakingly real with the figurative description of its agony.

This book throws you into a realm of magical realism. Each sentence is a lyric, each page is poetic, and the entirety is a beautiful dream. The title “sorrows” emphasizes that this book will make you cry, and even if you don’t, it leaves a pang of pain and emptiness inside of you. Yes, what this book engulfs you in is this atmosphere. I’ve seen many other readers also comment on this weird feeling being wrapped around them as they read on, and this feeling is a mixture of hurt, misery  and most of all, the rawest form of love. Absolutely whimsical, fantastical and fascinating. Somehow, every character is written with the greatest depth, even with a few lines. You can easily find the connection between each character, find the interesting complexity of every single one of them and you will definitely fall in love with them – flaws and all.

Maybe this book might not be the cup of tea for people that like simplistic forms of writing, because every word in this book is imprinted with deeper meaning and riddles and emotion. Do not expect things to make sense in this book. As I said, it resembles a fairy tale. There is no reason why Ava has wings. No reason why her grandmother can feel the presence of her siblings haunting and lingering around her. No reason why sadness smells sweet.

But most importantly, though, when you read this book, all these questions are flung out of the window. You exist in this abyss of oblivion, or simply put, you find it hard to separate reality from dream. You find it hard to tear your eyes away from every word that will cling themselves on your skin like a intoxicating scent. You will hear spirits whispering your favourite quotes in your ear. It is a book that is irrevocably impossible to forget, ever.

In other words, I never had my heart broken before, but I think I now know how it feels like.

If you enjoy a book about wasted youth and love in its paradoxical state between ugly and enchanting, then you should definitely pick up this book and let it leave you with a lifetime of goosebumps. It bequeaths a bittersweet  taste in your mouth and saltiness in your eyes and imparts  you with this question: How will I ever be able to pick up the broken pieces of my heart again?

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