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A Reader of Fictions: Review + Giveaway: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

A Reader of Fictions

Book Reviews for Just About Every Kind of Book

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Review + Giveaway: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

Author: Rita Leganski
Pages: 400
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."

Okay book, I'm pretty sure it was me and not you. Listen, I saw you and you were beautiful, and I wanted you right away. I couldn't resist your allure, your magical realism. I had to have you in my life. Now, though, I realize that I should have gotten to know you better first, before we committed to one another in any meaningful way. You really are beautiful inside and out, but just not in a way I can fully appreciate.

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.

Rating: 2/5

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.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blogger Becky LeJeune said...

Hm, I'll be digging into this one over the weekend. I'm looking forward to it but at least now I'm prepared for some of the unexpected wrinkles!

March 7, 2013 at 12:19 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Yeah, I really think that others might not feel this way, but I just did not see the point of any of it.

March 7, 2013 at 12:23 PM  
Blogger erin said...

Thanks for the honest review! I had seen this book and thought it looked very.... deep... Thanks for the giveaway :)

March 7, 2013 at 2:26 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

It's too bad that this didn't work for you. I was laughing at your opening paragraph. Oh, how many times do we get sucked in by a pretty cover only to realize that looks don't matter, it's what's inside that counts. (Okay, who am I kidding, looks do matter. I'm shallow and am not likely to pick up an ugly book, but it's a shame when it's the other way around.) Great review, hopefully whoever wins it will enjoy it more than you did.

March 7, 2013 at 2:50 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Too bad...I love magical realism and Sarah Addison Allen, but this book sounds like it won't work for me either.

March 7, 2013 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Alison Lan said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 7, 2013 at 11:54 PM  
Blogger Alison Lan said...

Thanks for the review! It doesn't seem like the kind of book I would read either. :)

March 7, 2013 at 11:55 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Hahaha, I'm shallow too. I will pick up an ugly book, but only after numerous reviews or because I read all the pretty ones already.

March 8, 2013 at 9:11 AM  
Blogger Mariya said...

I really liked your honest, thoughtful, and detailed review. I think this book sounds really interesting and I can't believe I haven't heard of it until now. I absolutely love magical realism in fiction (I'm a HUGE fan of Haruki Murukami's work in particular). I think I am going to really like reading this book.

March 8, 2013 at 11:28 AM  
Blogger Audra said...

Love your comments, as always! Also, so true. I managed to get over the Catholic thing but it was the Magical Negro that made it hard for me to enjoy this one.

March 8, 2013 at 1:45 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

OMG, can't believe you just said that, but...it's kind of true. Hahaha.

March 8, 2013 at 1:47 PM  
Blogger Renae @ Respiring Thoughts said...

So this is a case of pretty ideas that try too hard to be pretty? Definitely sounds problematic. Which is a shame, because the blurb is so interesting and all of the plot points (separately) sound wonderful. Shame, shame.

March 8, 2013 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger Christina said...

Something like that I guess. Or maybe I just didn't get it? I'm really not sure.

March 8, 2013 at 4:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Darn, I'm sorry this one didn't work for you, but thanks for sharing your thoughts for the tour!

March 8, 2013 at 11:05 PM  
Blogger Anita Yancey said...

I enjoyed your review, but I'm sorry that you didn't like the book. I would love to read it, I think the characters do sound interesting and very colorful. Thanks for this chance to win it.

March 11, 2013 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Maria Behar said...

You have some excellent reasons for not liking this book. Although I myself loved it, I can see where you're coming from. One thing I didn't particularly like was the way Adelaide Roman was portrayed; she comes across as more of a stereotype.

Everyone does agree that the writing is exquisitely beautiful, though. I can honestly say that I've read few books written in such a gorgeous prose style.

Thanks for your honest review! :)

March 25, 2013 at 11:08 PM  

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