Thank you , thank you Rita Leganski for writing this wonderful and magical novel, In a week that has seen so much tragedy in so many places, involving so may people, I was sorely in need of a little magic This novel features some wonderful people, not least little Bonaventure Arrow who cannot speak but can hear things other people cannot The prose is like liquid, it flows fluently and freely Yet all is not sweetness and light, it is New Orleans in the 1950 s, a place of root and voodoo and hoodoo and some strange going ons There are family secrets, religion and sadness and one particular dark happening that will tragically effect the future Ultimately there is a secret and once that is found there will be forgiveness and love and new chances at life I often see authors asked what one novel did they wish they could read again for the first time I wish I could start this one over but alas I may have found one of the few books I can see myself reading again One must suspend a little belief, and like the atmospheric New Orleans and quite a bit of magical realism to love this novel. 2.5 Before he is born, Bonaventure Arrow s father is murdered by a mentally disturbed man known only as the Wanderer His mother s unspeakable grief affects Bonaventure s development he is born mute, but with hyper acute hearing He can hear earthworms moving through the dirt and a bit of dust falling off a moth s wing He can also hear the stories that inanimate objects tell the sound of steamships comes from a wooden crate marked port of New Orleans, and the sounds of gunshots from a jar of sassafras And he hears the sadness and secrets of his paternal grandmother s house Helping him make sense of these sounds are two extraordinary characters the ghost of his father, William Arrow, whom only Bonaventure can hear, and the family s cook, Trinidad Prefontaine, who is a Creole woman knowledgeable about hoodoo and root work Leganski s work is hard to describe It has elements of Southern gothic, as well as the supernatural and magic When I first heard that the central character is a mute child, I immediately thought of David Wroblewski s The Story of Edgar Sawtelle But this novel is nowhere near so fine a work of literature as Wroblewski s I think Leganski got too caught up in the magical quality of Bonaventure s extraordinary hearing She spends way too much time crafting beautiful descriptions of his abilities and they are beautiful But, how does reading about a dust mote s story of being carried across the Himalayas on the foot of a goose help this story The answer is it doesn t These type of passages and there are many showcase Leganski s imagination and ability to write creatively, but they interfere with the story They do nothing to develop the characters or advance the plot They are unnecessary distractions There is a nugget of a great premise here I like how she used the innocence of a child to help the wounded adults around him heal I liked that Bonaventure was surrounded by people who loved him and nurtured him maternal grandmother notwithstanding I wish she had spent time developing the story, and less time expounding on Bonaventure s unusual hearing abilities I was interested and caught up in the plot at the beginning, but then felt she would never get to the point By the time the identity of William s killer was revealed I just didn t really care Had I been her editor, I would have deleted close to a hundred pages I would have deleted the maternal grandmother s storyline and expanded on his teacher s growing relationship with his mother I would also have advised her to make use of Trinidad, who doesn t join the family until half way through the novel I get that Leganski was going for an ethereal quality, but I think she went too far in that direction and forgot the story NOTE I don t usually round up when I give a 1 2 star rating, but the quality of Leganski s writing shows promise, so I did in this case. Know what you re getting into This is soooooper sentimental Like a Frank Capra directing The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry from a screenplay by Paolo Coelho, starring Michael Landon, with a soundtrack by Andrew LLoyd Webber level of sentimentality Rita Leganski has built a sentimentality amplifier that goes to 11.That being said, this is a great read The prose is beautiful and the characters are surprisingly real for a story that involves voodoo, ghosts, and super hearing Leganski s sense of place is amazing, and her sense of wonder is breathtaking.Bonaventure wasn t a quick read for me Not that I wasn t rushing to get back to it, but my page per hour rate was much slower than usual, because the prose demands it.This is not a book for the hipster crowd If you re too cool for school, stay away But if you want a heartfelt story of loss, pain, love, forgiveness, and redemption, you won t find a better book this winter. This novel was absolutely fantastic It took me quite some time to get over the fact that this book had ended I did not want to leave the world that Rita Leganski had created in this novel The story within these pages sucked me in from the first page and it almost hurt me to close the back cover at the end This was one of those novels that is so well written, I had to read parts out loud to release the beauty of the language into the world Not only is Bonaventure s world magical, but so is the writing of Leganski She wrote so beautifully, I had no choice but to run away with Bonaventure, William, Dancy, and the Wonderer Dancy and William fell quickly in love They were blissfully happy and could not control their longing for each other It wasn t long after their indiscretion, that Dancy became pregnant The two were quickly married and began a perfect life together That was until William was shot and killed on his birthday.The grief that Dancy feels after William s death is so deep and numbing, it actually changes her unborn child, Bonaventure When Bonaventure is born, the family quickly realizes that he is very different He doesn t cry, he doesn t fuss, he doesn t make a sound Although some thought that this was a defect, Dancy knew her son was special Indeed he was Bonaventure didn t speak because he knew that he could learn from the world if he just listened Soon the world was talking to Bonaventure He could hear his mothers guilt, his grandmother s grief, and even his father s ghost.This superb hearing wasn t just a gift, it was a fate Bonaventure soon found that his hearing could help him heal his family With the help of a hoo doo woman who understands Bonaventure s gift, he begins to unravel dark family secrets and release the hold they have on his family.This novel was so entrancing, I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves Benjamin Button, Like Water For Chocolate, or Perfume I repeat, ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC Spoilers Ahead When what seemed like the entire Internet went crazy for this book, I decided to check it out On the surface, it should have been a favorite After all, it s set in my beloved New Orleans and brimming with magical realism I expected to find something I d at least like, but I wasn t holding out hope of discovering a new favorite.What I actually found, however, was almost offensive Style and content obviously cribbed from the awesome Sarah Addison Allen, only filled with heavy handed proselytization to spice things up a bit The omniscient narrator s descriptions of pregnancy and later, abortion, make it abundantly clear that this book should certainly be shelved with the Christian fiction Not only is the description of abortion graphic and scientifically dubious we re also forced to endure the hand wringing and pearl clutching of Letice s guilt as she struggles to come to terms with her remorse over a decades old backroom procedure she was forcibly subjected to This moral agony is so strong that she actually builds a personal chapel so she can keep begging for divine forgiveness The character is defined by this guilt, until she becomes nothing than a Roman Catholic cautionary tale in sackcloth and ashes Bonaventure, the boy who can hear the pots in the kitchen telling stories about warming bottles for him as a baby no, really is the almighty vehicle that doesn t speak so that he can hear enough to heal the world Pages and pages are spent on description of his ability to hear powder falling off of moth s wings, along with his advanced IQ and perfect disposition He never misbehaves, he never gets angry and he reacts to the ostracism of his peers with blessed acceptance Ugh.I will give Ms Leganski credit for skillful exposition, I just hated her preachy tone We re reminded over and over that voodoo is a bad thing and feigned Christianity is a bad thing and disbelief is a bad thing, while abortion is the absolute WORST thing If you re into heavy handed Christian rhetoric masquerading as something a bit exciting, you might be pleased with The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow. Otherwise, I wouldn t recommend it. I read a lot of books but rarely do I read one that reminds me of why I love to read The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow has all the hallmarks of great storytelling but what makes it so special is the feeling it evokes with the reader Yes, you will love the language, the characters, and the twists, but most of all you will love the experience of reading this book In her luminous first novel, author Rita Leganski has hooked me for life More, please VikkiTo read what Shannon, Kaitlyn and Suman think of The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, visit The Savvy Reader here. I suppose this falls under the category of magical realism I actually never knew exactly what that was but I thoroughly enjoyed it It is fun to be immersed in a story where one might believe in guardian angels, that loved ones who have passed on can reach out to us and that some people may have other worldly gifts that can be used to help or heal others Of course this only works if it is well written and this definitely is Love the time period 1950s, the Cajun culture and New Orleans setting There is a great cast of characters Many to love and only a few to hate I always enjoy having a strong child character perspective it offers so much Even the names are magical Bonaventure Arrow, Trinidad Prefontaine, Bayou Cymbaline And how nice to have satisfying and happy endings closure There were a couple of incidents that were a little too graphic macabre for me but thankfully the sweet and humorous aspects of the story helped to balance it.This was a nice change of pace very different form anything else I have read I will look forward to from this author. The Silence Of Bonaventure Arrow Is The Tale Of A Mute Boy Whose Gift Of Wondrous Hearing Reveals Family Secrets And Forgotten Voodoo Lore, And Exposes A Murder That Threatens The Souls Of Those Who Love HimBonaventure Arrow Didn T Make A Peep When He Was Born, And The Doctor Nearly Took Him For Dead But He Was Listening, Placing Sound Inside Quiet And Gaining His Bearings By The Time He Turns Five, He Can Hear Flowers Grow, A Thousand Shades Of Blue, And The Miniature Tempests That Rage Inside Raindrops He Also Hears The Voice Of His Dead Father, William Arrow, Mysteriously Murdered By A Man Known Only As The WandererExploring Family Relics, He Opens Doors To The Past And Finds The Key To A Web Of Secrets That Both Hold His Family Together, And Threaten To Tear Them ApartSet Against The Backdrop Of S New Orleans, The Silence Of Bonaventure Arrow Is A Magical Story About The Lost Art Of Listening And A Wondrous Little Boy Who Brings Healing To The Souls Of All Who Love Him 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 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 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 Leganski someday, but this one did not work for me. Simply magical I loved the writing I had goosebumps while reading the very first paragraph I was hooked Anyways, although the pace is a bit slow, the storyline is remarkable It s an emotional roller coaster This is one of the rare books that I did not want to end The structure and characters development are truly impressive, at least for me I loved every page My favourite part is when Bonaventure was still in his mom s womb the description of his reactions to external sounds was so realistic I did expect a grand finale, and because of that I was a bit disappointed, but regardless, this one was a terrific read Note there are lots of religious references that may not please everyone that part did not bother me a bit.
Rita Leganski holds an MA in writing and publishing and a BA in literary studies and creative writing from DePaul University She teaches a writing workshop at DePaul s School for New Learning and was a recipient of the Arthur Weinberg Memorial Prize for a work of historical fiction.
- The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow
- Rita Leganski
- 13 April 2019 Rita Leganski