Sunday, March 31, 2013

She Reads Book Club Book Review: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

The March pick for the She Reads Book Club is a southern tale steeped in a mixture of voodoo magic, Catholicism, and full-flavored roux. Wonderful and strange, Rita Leganski's debut novel The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow is sure to delight, sadden, and touch the soul every reader.

Set in the mid-twentieth century in a fictional town in Lousiana, Leganski's novel tells the story of Bonaventure Arrow. An exceptional young man with an auditory gift, Bonaventure is born into a world of sorrow. When tragedy strikes his family weeks before his birth, Bonaventure takes on the weight of the mourning, guilt, and longing his family members feel. Bonaventure is different from other children; he cannot speak, but he hears the sounds that come from blades of grass, rocks, and bird feathers.

To say too much more about the plot would ruin the book. Leganski breaks all kinds of "rules" for writing fiction, but prevails nonetheless. The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow was a novel I wanted to devour in one sitting, yet spread out over several days so that it would last. From her chapter titles to her writing style, Leganski wrote a novel that is perfect in every way.

Breaking the "show, don't tell" rule was a leap of faith, but one that paid off in the end. While much of the novel is "told" to the reader rather than "shown" in descriptive writing, Leganski creates the perfect voice for this brave novel -- a third-person narrator that the reader depends upon. Through this objective, omniscient eye, the characters come to life in all their wonderfully-flawed glory. Some remain lovable still, and some the object of further scorn, but this daring narrative distance allows their true colors to shine.

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow broke my heart into a million pieces more than once, yet it also somehow filled my soul with hope in the end. Bonaventure's innocence and the goodness that shines through him will cause in readers a renewed sense of faith in humankind. The novel is about many things, but at its core it is the story of one brave young man and the people who love him.

Leganski has written a novel that is far from anything else -- it is a magical tale that begs to be told. For more thoughts on this beautiful book, visit the She Reads Book Club March Selection page, where bloggers from all over the web have linked their reviews. To join in the book club discussion, click here. If you'd like to read the first chapter, HarperCollins has a preview of the book here.

The She Reads pick for April is Patti Callahan Henry's new novel And Then I Found You. I am super-excited about this one, as I LOVED Henry's last novel Coming Up For Air. Look for my thoughts on the new book in the next few weeks!

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