The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender delivers eye-opening writing (and fits no categories — yay!)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ellen Klein, who stands behind Alexandria, VA's fabulous independent children's bookstore, Hooray for Books, (and who introduced me to Debbie Levy, a friendship I'll always cherish), sent a somewhat cryptic note not long ago.

Ellen had read One Thing Stolen, she said. And therefore I was read The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, a book she has called as "rare and beautiful as Mona Lisa's smile." The author is Leslye Walton. It is a debut. It has turned many heads and now, when I think back on it, I remember dear Kelsey Coons (my cousin's daughter, a beautiful soul, a smart cookie, a holder of a master's degree in publishing, a design talent currently completing a fellowship at Chronicle, and a rising star in publishing) urging me toward the title, too.

I was to read the book, Ellen said, but only if I bought it at an independent. (My preference anyway, though my determination to buy Brown Girl Dreaming and I'll Give You the Sun from an independent has been thwarted by sold-out shelves everywhere I turn. Still, I'm holding on.)

In any case, it's been a hectic time. But I found Ava at the Doylestown Bookshop and last night read the first 50 pages. Ava is clearly a no-categories book, a concept I embrace from head to foot. It is also astonishingly beautifully written, and while I have not finished (I will!), I stop in my enthusiasm to quote you this, below. It doesn't matter what the story is about (not yet, not to me, anyway). I'm just in love with the vivacious prose:

The day Emilienne met Satin Lush she was wearing her cloche hat, newly painted with red poppies. Her hair was curled and peeked lightly out from under the hat to cup the curve of her chin. There was a rip in her stocking. It was May and heavy wet lines of spring rain streamed down the windows of the cafe where Emilienne had just spent her day serving black coffee and sticky buns to dreamless Irishmen. The smell of glazed sugar and folded pride still lingered on her clothes. As she waited for the rain to let up, the bells of Saint Peter's chimed five times and the water fell only harder upon the awning over her head.

She was thinking of the loveliness of such moments, admiring the rain and the graying sky the way one might admire the painting of an up-and-coming artist, one whose celebrity seems presaged by the swirls of his brush marks. It was while she was in the midst of such thoughts that Satin Lush walked out of the cafe, the clink of his legs disturbing the rhythm of the rain against the awning.
Aren't you in love, too?


Serena said...

Wow, wonderful, and perhaps and independent could order those elusive books for you?

I know our local shop, Novel Books, will ship them to you after they are ordered:

Victoria Marie Lees said...

Most assuredly. Her prose sounds like the artwork of the up-and-coming artist the protagonist speaks of. Thanks for sharing this, Beth. Another book I'll need to purchase.
~Victoria Marie Lees

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