The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

by Leslye Walton

Read time: about 7 minutes

It has been a long time since I read ‘Midnight’s Children’ by Salman Rushdie. I was awestruck by the semi-real-semi-magical world he had created. The overlapping of characters with great depth and them being just ‘them’ just blew me away. Since then I have been looking for a book with similar layering and mystical story. ‘The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava lavender’ finally completed my search. This book, classified as ‘magical realism’ is a great book for someone who likes the story better than the end.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender


I posses the paperback edition from walker books. This is a beautiful book with a blueish cover. The golden feather adorns the cover with writing in white. The text on the top left corner says ‘Love makes us such fools’. It will make anyone fall for the book immediately. The back cover and spine are equally beautiful with small light, golden feather floating across them. Anyone who reads this is going to long for a copy for personal collection.


The book consists of multiple characters which are multilayered. But, primarily, the book is about three. It is a generational saga of love gone wrong. A strange story, it begins with the grandmother, Emilienne. After Pierette, who was half bird and half human who eventually becomes a complete bird and dies, Emilienne is the strange member in the Roux family. Emilienne can sense events. ‘She was always getting strange messages from equally strange places. If she dreamed of keys, a change was on its way. Dreaming of tea implied an unforeseen visitor. A bird all from the north meant traded; from west, good luck; and from the east, it announced the arrival of good love.’

Viviane always wondered if her mother’s abilities stretched further into supernatural realm. And one fine day her mother handed her a sanitary belt right when she needed it. Emilienne seemed to sense everything. Viviane is unlike anyone in Roux family. Viviane has been saving herself for a man she thinks will come back to her. He does, but not in a way she wants him. Demon of broken hearts is what has been encircling her maternal family and it does not differentiate.

Ava Lavender is the latest girl offspring of the Lavender family. She is different from the earlier Lavender women in more ways than one. The most apparent being, she is born with wings. People have different opinions about her ‘condition’. Some take her to be a witch and some, Angel. But she has always known herself the best. She is just a girl.

Then enters Nathaniel Sorrows who has come to help his aunt to overcome the extreme affinity towards the delicacies of Emilienne’s bakery. He is on a way to become the great priest but something strange and beautiful catches his fancy.

All the characters are unique in their own way. They posses the complexity needed to write magical realism.


The strange and beautiful sorrows of Ava lavender is a story about a girl named Ava lavender who is born with wings. She is struggling every way to spend her life as a normal girl but deep down she knows that she is a normal girl. Slowly her attempts to feel normal frequent and she has to pay a price for it. Heartbreak and sorrow seem to be like a wandering shadow over the lavender women.

The saga begins with Emilienne’s mother and Ava’s great grandmother. She is having hard luck with love when she falls in love with her husband or so she wonders. They move to a new city and the new city brings the loss of her loved one. After her own sour experience with love Emilienne decides that a love-less marriage is probably the best for her. Viviane receives the love she wants but not from the same person and she throws away her life in a solitude of an old house at pinnacle street. It is now Ava Lavender’s turn to try out her luck at love. She is determined to have it her way, break the barriers. But she wings do not let her fly like how she would want them to.

It is a brilliant story of love and sorrows of three strange and beautiful women.


The beautiful content is perceivable with equally hypnotic narration. There is lyrical flow to the story. Each word unfolds something new about the women or their lives which comes as a voyeuristic pleasure. The artistic intellect to poetic-ise the story is what brings the magic is the tale.

Good points

Let me begin with the title of the book. ‘The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender’ itself has something poetic about it. The cover, if not the title, draws you in a bit more. The golden feathers all around with beautiful white writing makes you want to own your own copy and park it on the shelf. The story inside is an epic tale of women unlucky in love and strange in their own ways. Characters have something mysterious about them and the narration discloses it one by one, like a great love song which ends badly.

Bad points

I did not like the ending of the book. Maybe I was waiting for something more ‘magical’. But it doesn’t disappoint me much since the journey through has been so great!


Overall this is a great book. Classified as young adult and magical realism this one fits an ideal book for lovers of both genre.

Who do I recommend this to

This book for those who crave for a good narration with an epic tale. Those who want to venture into magical realism, this is a perfect first book!

Quotable quotes

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.

My whole heart for my entire life.

Just because love don’t look the way you think it should, don’t mean you don’t have it.

Children betrayed their parents by becoming their own people.

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.

This time could be different. This time it could last. Maybe it would be a longer, deeper love: a real and solid entity that lived in the house, used the bathroom, ate their food, mussed up the linens in sleep. A love that pulled her close when she cried, that slept with its chest pressed against her back.

She is the glorious reincarnation of every woman ever loved.

It was the song of the birds in spring and the call of the wind through bare branches on a cold winter afternoon. Fate. Both my anguish and my solace. My escort and my cage.

Veena Choudhary

An avid reader and history fanatic.

Mumbai, MH