Ava Lavender’s family had a history of heartbreaking love. Men who ran away, men who died, a father who married another and left her mother pregnant, an aunt who turned into a bird; it’s just not a cheerful family. To add to it, the dead haunt the living. So when unmarried Viviane gives birth to a baby girl with wings and an autistic boy, it’s just another heartbreak looking for a place to happen. Viviane keeps Ava penned up in the house, fearing what the outside world might do to Ava because of her wings. But she’s an open secret; the delivery room nurses told all.
Despite her mother’s plan to keep Ava away from others, she meets a girl her own age when she is playing in the backyard. The girl is unimpressed with Ava’s condition; she can’t fly, so she is just a girl. As they get older, Ava begins to escape at night and meet other teens, stretching her wings so to speak. But she doesn’t know that someone has developed a dangerous obsession with her. You can’t protect those you love from life or love. Penning them up only makes them try harder to escape. And it’s only after escaping that they can truly spread their wings and fly.
The prose is so perfectly wrought it’s like fine goldwork, tastefully ornamented and shiny. It was a joy to read; very good magical realism. Some readers have complained that it’s not just about Ava; no, it’s about her whole family, a generational novel. In some ways it reminded me of a less weird ‘Bellefleur’ (note: I love that book). This is Walton’s first novel; I can’t wait to see what she does next.
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