This is a story about a lot of things and a lot of people. But mainly it’s about a strange family and its women. About Ava and her speckled wings, her mother Viviane with her extraordinary sense of smell and her certainty about who the love of her life is, and about Ava’s grandmother Emilienne with her broken heart, her ghosts and her way of looking at things closer than other people. It’s mostly about Love and all the different ways it takes shape. But it’s about so much more.
Its beauty and charm rely as much on the characters - all with their unique stories and all worthy of your attention – as on its style. It reminded me of Isabelle Allende’s books. I drank them in my teen years, so I guess marketing this for YA isn’t such a strange idea when you think about it (although it really wasn’t originally, the publishing market works in mysterious ways). So, yes, the style is lyrical and poetic and SouthAmericanish, except it’s set first in New York and then in a small town near Seattle throughout the 1900s and '50s (I think. I lost track of time after a certain point) There’s a lot of that magic realism found in Allende’s and Marquez’s novels, but it’s more of a feel than anything else. This book stands on its own feet. Many strange, unexplained things happen and it would be fascinating to analyse their meaning, their symbols and metaphors, especially Ava’s wings, But I for one just enjoyed reading the story as it is, sympathizing with its characters (my favourite is probably Viviane, although I did love all the women in the book. So. Many. Women. And Gabe. I loved Gabe.), reading about their troubles and sorrows and worrying about whether they will ever find happiness.
Leslye Walton has just acquired the “author that makes me want to read everything they have ever written” status for me. Thing is, I will have to wait because this was her first book. Bummer. As soon as I finished it, I wanted to go back and read it again. And this doesn’t happen often. If I had to find a negative criticism would be that it was over too soon. I had only just started getting to know the characters and then it was time to say goodbye already? I needed way more time with this story. A lot more time.
Oh and it could be have been gayer (was I the only one who had high hopes for Emilienne and Whilelmina? Was that true subtext or am I imagining things)