Author: Rita Leganski
Publisher: Harper Paperbacks
Source: Publisher via TLC Book Tours
Description from Goodreads:
Bonaventure Arrow didn’t make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. But he was only listening, placing sound inside quiet and gaining his bearings. By the time he is five, he can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. One day, Bonaventure’s world is shaken by anguished voices he’s never heard before–voices that trace back to a note written by his mother, Dancy, and to a peculiar relic owned by his Grand-mère Letice. When Bonaventure removes the note and the relic from where they’ve been hidden, he opens two doors to the past and finds the key to a web of secrets that both hold his family together, and threaten to tear them apart. Set against the background of 1950s New Orleans and the fictional town of Bayou Cymbaline, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is rich with the character of a culture that overflows with conjured charms and sanctified spirits. It takes readers from a gumbo joint on Atchafaylaya Road to a sinister house in New Orleans to the interior of the Arrow family crypt. A magical debut novel about the lost art of listening and a wondrous little boy who brings healing to the souls of all who love him in this story of forgiveness and redemption.
First Sentence: "Bonaventure Arrow didn't make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead."
What I can say is that the writing in The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is beautiful. Simply lovely. Leganski's writing style plays into the feeling of magical realism perfectly, and the way she puts together sentences has a magic all its own. Her debut proves her writing chops, and I would be willing to consider reading whatever her next novel is, solely on the strength of her prose.
The book's opening captured me immediately, reminding me a good deal of Fitzgerald's short story "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" mixed with the southern charm of Sarah Addison Allen. The idea of a child, mute but intended for some big purpose, seems fraught with possibility. Unfortunately, the story then jumps back and spends almost the whole of the novel in the backstory of his mother and grandmothers. I never did find myself especially interested in any character but Bonaventure Arrow himself, and he didn't turn out to be much of a focus in the novel.
Bonaventure, in addition to being silent, has super hearing. He can hear everything, from falling stars to his father's ghost. Supposedly, this will allow him to do something quite special and live up to his saintly name. His counterpart of sorts, in the sense that they both have special abilities, is Trinidad, a much older black woman. She sees visions, Knowings, and practices hoodoo, which allows her to help people with natural herbs. Her hoodoo is remarkably similar to the effects of Vianne's chocolates in Chocolat. These elements are fantastic, but I don't feel like they served any actual purpose to the plot whatsoever. They seem merely to be there to make the setting more vibrant.
Actually, the only real plot seems to involve Bonaventure's father. William dies before Bonaventure's birth, shot by a mysterious, insane man. His mother and wife are trying to allay their guilt, the former by trying to figure out the identity of his killer. Meanwhile, William, in some sort of purgatory, watches over his family, and communicates with his son. The whole book seems mostly to be about him moving on to the next world. Rather than magical realism, this is much more of a ghost story.
What lost me, most heartily though, was all of the Christianity in the novel. No, it's not preachy, but it's incredibly boring. As I said, I couldn't be bothered about the backstory of the grandmothers, and their pasts are all wrapped up in their fervent religious beliefs. Every character isn't Christian, and it doesn't seem like Leganski's trying to say anything about it, but I just had no fucks to give about any of it. Like so much else in the novel, I just don't see why I had to sit through all of that when it doesn't seem to have had a big impact on the plot overall.
The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is a gorgeously-written novel, but suffers from a weak plot that tries to do too many things without tying them together. I might read more Leganski someday, but this one did not work for me.
Favorite Quote: "'It's part of reaching the age of reason. As you get older, you figure out a lot of things with your mind, and you get better and better at it. But one day you realize that some things can't be figured out at all, no matter how old you are or how much you use your mind, and then you just have to listen to your heart.'"
Though TSoBA didn't work for me, you still might love it (and what better way to try than a free copy). Harper sent me two copies, so I'm passing one along to a reader (and one to a friend). US/CAN only. Fill out the Rafflecopter to enter.
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