Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow

I finished this magical novel late last night and like a special gift you can't wait to present to a treasured love one, I couldn't wait to share with all of you this captivating love story and its unique and memorable main character. In Rita Leganski's debut novel, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow, it is 1949 in Bayou Cymbaline, Louisiana when William Arrow falls in love at first sight with Dancy Roman, saying "The curve of her cheekbone transfixed him; the sweep of her jaw threw him down; and the delicacy of her earlobe ran off with his heart." He was a lawyer and she was a waitress at a gumbo joint when they initially meet and slowly, after long walks and driving lessons, slip into courtship. They were opposites in countless ways but "it could never be said that one had fallen harder in love than the other" and so William and Dancy "became a destiny fulfilled" when at the justice of the peace they married and became three. Yes three, for on a beautiful afternoon filled with love and passion "tiny embryonic Bonaventure floated down a fallopian tube and settled in to grow."

Happy beyond their wildest imaginings the young married couple gloried in the day-to-day discoveries of marriage, like learning each others quirks and likes; like she sleeps on her side and he sleeps on his back, and marveled at the miracle they had created in their child. They sang him songs and excitedly watched Dancy's expanding belly for his every flutter and move, and Bonaventure hearing their harmonized breathing would let "the memory of their singing flow(ed) from his ears to his knees and down to his feet, where it caused him to wiggle his toes in his sleep." (See what I mean about magical. Can't you just imagine this little being doing just that. Basking in his parents love, before he's even joined this beautiful world.)

Tragedy strikes though and Dancy's beloved is ripped from her arms before Bonaventure is born, and when Bonaventure finally does arrive, he does so with nary a peep...silent...but with miraculous hearing. For while Bonaventure may not speak, he's been given a divine gift that permits him to hear flowers grow, the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops, his mother's heartbeat across the room, and the gentle voice of his father, who was shot dead by a mysterious stranger known only as the Wanderer. As the years pass and Bonaventure grows into boyhood, he will rely on his father's patient guidance and the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a creole housekeeper with special gifts of her own, to help heal his family; his grieving mother plagued by guilt, his paternal grandmother burdened with a long-hidden secret which haunts her since her youth, and help his loving father find peace and be able to let go.

Enchanting is the word which best describes this beautiful book for it reads like an enchanted fairy tale of love, family and forgiveness. The Louisiana bayou and New Orleans of yore with all their otherworldly charms and beliefs, including magic, voodoo, and hoodoo, perfectly lend itself as the home for this fanciful tale of healing. While Bonaventure in all his innocence, sweetness and compassion serves as the perfect conduit for the hope and peace his family so desperately needs to begin letting go of their guilt and sorrow, and begin living again. Ms. Leganski does such an incredible job in creating this exquisitely gentle circle of love around Bonaventure; thanks to his mother and grandmother protected from the harsh pain of judgement inflicted by the outside world, though once he starts school other children's taunts and recriminations (as they are wont to do) mar that peace once in a while, for his marvelous gift causes him to standout even when he tries to keep it under wraps.

Even into the Garden of Eden slithered the snake, and so into this sweet tale of family and love, the author has introduced some darkness in the form of the Wanderer. The mystery lies in his identity and throughout the book, we are given clues as to the why for his actions. A disfigured man haunted by personal demons, despite his crime and its repercussions, the reader can't help but feel a measure of sympathy and sorrow for this poor lost soul. The mystery is really the weakest part of the story for I figured it out relatively early, though you don't get definitive confirmation 'til near the end of the book.

The book offers a satisfying resolution to each character's tale, and in so doing leaves the reader with the peace of mind in knowing that these newfound friends we've grown to care about are finally at peace. An uncommon tale that helps us to realize the power of forgiveness, not just towards others, but also for ourselves. The fact that we need to let go of the heavy burdens of past mistakes, past hurts, past pain for "holding on is believing that there's only a past; letting go is knowing that there's a future."