The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow has lingered with me since I first read it a few weeks ago. Any mother will tell you that when her baby entered the world, the most beautiful sound in the world is their first cry as they announce their arrival to the human race. However, there is always an exception to every rule and Bonaventure Arrow is exactly that. All around him are bewildered by his lack of a voice and that isn't the only thing that they don't understand. Bonaventure has a secret, a few of them in fact.
He has an amazing gift in the form of superhuman hearing. In his world he can hear flowers growing, and even colours have a unique sound that only he can experience. It's the everyday objects such as written letters, pencils and more that really drive home just how special he is. A jar of sand holds the sounds of water, rocks and seaweed from where it used to live, a stub of chalk offered up the sounds of tiny creatures building seashells out of lime. These items and others were soon collected in a box along with many more of Bonaventure's favourite sounds. At least those he can keep. It's impossible to capture the clouds and the joyful noise of possibility that they provided. The only person who really understands his unique qualities is his deceased father, William Arrow, who was murdered before the birth of his son. Often it is only the relationship with his father that allows Bonaventure to remain so kind, gentle, and confident in a house where his mother and grandmother are not only grieving the loss of their beloved William, but are also fighting their personal demons, weighed down with guilt.
This is one of those books that you just know is going to be on numerous bestseller lists. The plot is brilliant and unique, truly unforgettable. The writing style is extraordinary and a joy to read. I know my regular followers are probably aware that sometimes a book will become a favourite for me, just because it has such eloquent and beautiful language that inspires the reader to read certain passages aloud. This book has that effect on me but on a far greater level than I've experienced before.
In addition, the characters are complex, and fascinating. I felt I had bonded with the characters from remarkably early in the novel and usually for me that happens towards the end of a novel when I've absorbed a great deal of detail. It speaks volumes about the writing skills of Rita Leganski that the detail was blended beautifully into this well-crafted tale.
I'd find it difficult to choose a favourite character in this novel. I find myself enthralled by Bonaventure and his inexplicable, almost magical gift as well as his inspirational nature that embodies all that is good in humanity. I also find myself fascinated by Trinidad Prefontaine and her experiences in an era that was still rife with racial inequality, as well as the superstition and fear that surrounds Hoodoo (African-American folk magic). I have to admit that I felt a great deal of emotion for each and every character in this book and not always in a good way. A prime example is the maternal grandmother who inspired only dark and negative feelings in me that mostly stemmed from her awful treatment of Bonaventure. It's certainly an emotionally charged read and though I've read it twice already, I know that I'll be revisiting this book often.
I said at the start of this review, that I had eagerly anticipated and dreaded this review and that still holds true. I always read my reviews a few times before finally publishing them. In some cases that is helpful and then in cases like this, it's really more of a hindrance.
I could write this review a dozen times over, and it would never come close to capturing the magic and beauty of this exceptionally flawless debut novel. It has created a yearning in me, for silence and solitude in the hope that even if just for a second we could experience the world through Bonaventure's eyes. Anyone who has ever met me will tell you that the idea of me, and silence, is a miracle in itself. In finishing, all I can say is you need this book.
Don't forget to pop back here later today and check out my top 5 post, as well as details of a book giveaway for one lucky reader!