To say that Ava Lavender is odd might be a bit of an understatement. She was born with feathered wings like a bird and a twin brother with undiagnosed autism, who occasionally talks to ghosts. Definitely odd. But then again, the Roux (pronounced Roo) family has always been odd. Ava’s mother and grandmother have long been ostracized as witches in their Washington community because of their uncanny ability to know unknowable things from something like a smell or a breeze.
When the Roux family moved from France to Manhattan in the early 1900s, Ava’s grandmother, Emilienne (Em-eel-ee-en), was only a little girl. But their lives soon became pocked with tragedy and misfortune, and only those who locked their hearts up the tightest would survive. Soon, only Emilienne was left. She married a man she didn’t love, changed her name to Lavender, and took a train across the country to escape the ghosts of her family.
But they followed her to Seattle anyway, and the old house she moved into has its own ghosts. Emilienne did her best to ignore them all and guard her heart as she raised her only daughter, Viviane (Viv-ee-en). Viviane wasn’t as good at guarding her heart as her mother, and by the time Ava and her brother Henry entered Viviane’s life, she was so brokenhearted that she refused to ever leave the house.
But Ava doesn’t want to live a secluded life, to be different. As a teenager, she makes friends and begins to branch out beyond the seclusion her mother created for her. But tragedy is not done with the Roux family. Henry and the ghosts have seen terrifying glimpses into the future, but will anyone listen before it’s too late?
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is a mesmerizing book that reads like a fairy tale. And true to the classic fairy tales of the Grimm brothers, this story is filled with blood and violence and heartbreak. It’s definitely not for the sensitive or squeamish reader. If you have issues with sexual violence in particular, then you should take a pass on this one. But if you’ve got the stomach for it, you will be enthralled. These characters will stay with you long after the final page, like ghosts hovering in the corners of your life.