“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.”
This is one of those books that I think most people either hate or love. For me, I can´t decide which of the two I really am. I also think it´s one of those books where it´s open to interpretation and different people will take the story differently.
All in all, these strange and beautiful sorrows are the stories of a family that has always been seen as strange. Of a family that suffered sorrow, peculiar things and a few moments of beauty. It all starts with Ava´s great grandmother, then her grandmother Emilienne, her mother Viviane and at last Ava. We get to follow their whole story and unlike my expectation, we get a very detailed rundown of all these three generations, even if the book is called after Ava.
Personally, this is part of why I can´t decide whether or not I love it or just didn´t care for it. I went in expecting Ava´s story only and so getting Viviane´s and Emilienne´s stories in such detail felt to me like a very dragged out introduction until I realized the structure the book actually was in. I had some people tell me getting their full stories make sense towards the end and while I have to agree to some extent, I still think I would have liked even more focus on Ava and the time she is actually alive in instead. A more in-depth look into her mind, into the things around her and her friendships and feelings, to help the reader really connect with her. I did care for her but having three kind-of-main-characters kept me from really connecting and bonding.
But, I also do really like books where at the end you feel like you almost want to re-read to see how cleverly and beautifully everything is laid out, which I think this book is a perfect example of. Even just that quote I initiated with, that also initiates the book, is so telling afterward and it´s the kind of stylistic move that gets me all giddy. I also have to point out how beautiful the language and writing is and I think Magical Realism is definitely a genre I will have to explore more after reading this. It keeps everything very grounded but still has the ability to give that fantastical feeling I love.
But then I can´t help but look away from feeling almost bored while actually reading, even if I can look back and see all these incredibly well-done things and foreshadow after reading it.
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a story where different people will take away different things, I think;
Some will see the story of the woman who went from sorrow to disaster to being praised for her French pastries, even with ghosts following her every step;
Some will see the story of the woman who wouldn´t leave her house and who lived in heartache until she one day found her ability to laugh again;
Some, like me, will see it as the story about the girl born with wings, who reborn finally learned how to fly;
Or perhaps you will see it as a collective story of three strong women who all found beauty after the sorrow. So, if you decide to pick the book up, keep an open mind, be ready for meeting all three and hold on so you can at least see the beauty at the end too. Who knows, maybe you´ll find yet another story.
“Besides,” Gabe finished, “why would she have wings if she wasn’t meant to fly?”