Love is like the wings on a penguin—useless, but not completely so.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, a story balanced between realism and magical realism, is a story that I’ve never encountered before in the hundreds of books that I’ve read so far—I felt like I was ambushed by the way that it was written because it wasn’t something that I was used to. Most books I have read were written in ways that was easy for me to understand the content of the story, and it was easy for me to quickly become absorbed into the literary text. This novel did the complete opposite—it exposed me to the mythical world of realism without giving me a chance to prepare for what was to come.

The author, Leslye Walton, starts the story off from the very beginning—the beginning of Ava’s family tree which I thought was a very witty and brave thing to do for an author. Readers get to see how the story of Ava came to be; however, it’s told in an interesting way—from Ava’s perspective even though she was not born until later in the story. And when Ava is finally born, readers see yet again that something strange has taken place amongst the family—Ava was born with wings and her twin brother, Henry, was born “deaf” and he can foresee the future.

Ava, much like the other women in her family, are all considered strange to everyone around them, and unfortunately, they all suffer from an endless bad luck of love. Her mother, Vivienne, fell in love with her childhood sweetheart who left her after one night of quick passion, which resulted in Ava and her brother Henry. Her grandmother, Emilienne, didn’t have much luck with love either—her past “lovers” betrayed her and her husband died soon after their daughter was born. So, one can only imagine the fate of Ava when it comes to love and being loved. The women in the family, although cheated by love, still hoped to one day see it in their future.

In a sense, Ava’s wings were symbolic—they represent freedom, but freedom is what Ava yearns for. She plunges head first into the life of self-discovery while going through stages of what could be called love, or rather short infatuation. Unfortunately, there’s a price that comes with freedom, however, and Ava is quickly made aware of said price. The price is: her innocence being stolen from her along with her wings. In the end, I think Ava now knew the consequences that came with being from a strange family, and she can look at the world the same way her ancestors looked at it.

“Those we love never truly leave us, Harry. There are things that death cannot touch.” ― Jack Thorne


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