Lyrical magical realism paints four generations of women with tragic lives until a shocking violation fixes everything.
First-person narrator Ava, who isn’t even born until nearly halfway through the novel, never becomes the main character. Instead, the novel opens with Ava’s great-grandmother in France and follows the family through the ill-fated romances and personal calamities that chase them to Manhattan and eventually Seattle. Surrounded by death and despised by their neighbors, the Lavender women live in seclusion even from one another. Ava’s grieving grandmother Emilienne sees ghosts and ignores her daughter, Viviane. Viviane pines away from blighted love while raising its fruit: twins Ava and Henry. In the metaphor-made-flesh style of the genre, both children wear their oddness on their bodies. Henry would be autistic if his strangeness and language difficulties weren’t conceived as fantastical abilities, and Ava is born with wings. Isolated and, ironically, flightless, Ava longs to be a normal girl; her only real social contact is an earthy, vivacious neighborhood girl named Cardigan. The story’s language is gorgeous: “I turned and spread my wings open, as wide as they would go, feeling the wind comb its cold fingers through my feathers.” Disturbingly, a horrific assault acts as the vehicle of redemption, magically bringing people together for reasons that make sense only in the dreamlike metaphysics of literary device.
Gorgeous prose for readers willing to be blindsided. (Magical realism. 16 & up)