To be honest it took me a number of chapters to really get into this book. But once it grabbed me I became a fan and fell for the characters and the novel itself.
First of all, the main character is introduced in the prologue and we are told she was born with wings. I was welcome to that as it would be an interesting twist to a story already said to include a good amount of magical realism. But then in the unnumbered prologue I encountered this:My entire muscular, skeletal, and circulatory systems were irrevocably dependent upon my wings. The option of removing them was quickly deemed out of the question."
Well now you've just gone too far! Scientific Nikki wanted to rebel but I held her at bay. But I quickly reminded myself that we're not talking about real birds here or even real conditions in humans, we're talking about a book based in magical realism and obviously wings were going to be an important facet of Ava's life. (It also helped that Ava's great aunt turned into a bird, you rather just had to accept the elements of the book or you were not
going to enjoy it.)
Overall I really enjoyed this novel and all of the many elements Walton included. This book is filled with magical realism and unusual characters, yet it did not feel overwhelming. Ghosts, a woman turning into a bird, a girl with wings, abilities to smell emotions, superstitions and so on, all made for an intriguing and strangely inviting story.
I loved that the story was not just about Ava but about the history of love and life in her entire family, namely the women. No one in the novel walks away unscathed, much like in life. The author quite effectively used a fantastical story and family history to, in the end, show the truths about love and life and living in general.
The author also included some historical fiction elements, which always pleases me. One of my favorite cases in this novel was when the author took a real photo of a theater opening and used it as if her characters had been present and made it into the photo. I couldn't help but wonder if the photo was an inspiration for the novel overall.
All of the female characters in this novel were intriguing and I must say that I rather liked Ava's entire family. Of the male characters, I really liked Gabe, who was wholly likable and sweet. Ava's love interest of Rowe was also sweet, although not as well characterized as others due to his brevity in the story. (One of his sweetest lines, however, was "I loved you before, Ava. Let me love you still."
p292) Ava's twin, Henry, plays an interesting role and I liked how his seemingly nonsensical statements ended up being predictive.
One of my only complaints aside from taking a bit to get into the novel, was that I felt the ending could have been bulked up a bit. I would have liked to have had more details on what happens to everyone. But overall I really enjoyed the novel and look forward to other novels by the author.