We Were Liars

We Were LiarsWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once upon a time there was a king who had three beautiful daughters. The daughters grew up and had many beautiful children. They summered altogether on the king’s private island off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in four made-to-order houses, one for the king and one for each of the princesses and her offspring. They were a grand old family.

Except, they weren’t.

The king withholds his love and his money. The princesses desperately claw and scratch to earn his approval and drink way too much to dull the pain of rejection and lovelessness. The children implode with the weight of the family’s outward perfection and inward desolation.

E. Lockhart weaves fairy tales and classical literature together with the myths and lies one family believes and perpetuates to create a seering indictment of the sins of the fathers visited upon the generations. Smart and beautifully written, my heart aches for the main character’s “what could have been.”

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava LavenderThe Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Are you a bird, an angel, or what?”
…I didn’t have the answer. I certainly wasn’t a bird, as far as I could tell. But in the same breath, I couldn’t say I was human. What did it mean to be human anyway? I knew I was different, but didn’t that make me as human as anyone, or was I something else? I didn’t know. And at only eight years old, I hadn’t the time, the energy, or the mental capacity to form a more adequate response than “I think I’m just a girl.” Which is what I said (128).

I had been reading another book, but felt an uncomfortable voyeuristic gnawing in my gut as I read. I didn’t care for the characters and the way they lived.

So I picked up this enchanting book.

Ava’s story begins in Manhattan generations earlier with her great-grandparents and their very unique children, Ava’s grandmother and her sisters and brother. Before her own mother arrives, Ava’s grandmother moves to Seattle, where the rest of the story plays out.

This is a very human fairy tale, strange and beautiful indeed, with odd and exceptional characters doing curiously interesting things. Despite the hardships the unusual must endure, they love – and seek and reject love. Like the rest of us, ordinary as we may be, they pursue meaning purpose and connection despite their remarkable abilities and circumstances.

The novel could have benefited from one more solid editorial pass, but stands as an extraordinary first novel. I look forward to Leslye Walton’s next book.