Rare and magical is the book that can make you swoon with love, shake with anger and gasp with wonder.
But that’s exactly what Rita Leganski does with her debut novel, “The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow.” Her bewitching tale of 1950s New Orleans, full of family secrets, tragedy, love and voodoo, is a delight.
The novel focuses on a mute young boy, Bonaventure Arrow. He can’t speak, but he can hear absolutely everything: the past, colors, the wind as it blows through the Spanish moss miles away.
He can also hear the voice of his father, William, who died before Bonaventure was born.
His life is full of family with their own painful secrets: his paternal grandmother, Letice, who prays in her chapel for hours on end to heal her broken heart; his mother Dancy, who feels she’s to blame for William’s death; and Dancy’s mother, the evil Adelaide, who uses a crooked sense of Christianity to judge anyone and everyone, though she has more than a few secret sins of her own.
With the help of the family’s housekeeper, the mystical Trinidad, Bonaventure uses his silence to help heal wounds of the past and make things better for those who love him.
Leganski’s characters are so well developed you’d swear you knew them or were kin to them. Everyone knows a child as kind-hearted and curious as Bonaventure, a woman as tied to the past as Letice, and, unfortunately, someone as cold-hearted as Adelaide.
There’s plenty of magic throughout the story, but it’s never so far-fetched that it feels forced.
Bonaventure’s hearing is the best part, and you’ll never see – or hear – the world around you the same way again.
Leganski takes her time telling her tale, flipping back and forth between the past and the present. She describes the miraculous sounds Bonaventure can hear, or the sweet way his parents fell in love – how Dancy’s earlobe “ran away with (William’s) heart” – but the story is never lost in her gorgeous descriptions.
Most everyone in Bonaventure’s world is hurting, but this wonderful little boy heals them all, one way or another.
“The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow” is mystical yet realistic, tragic but uplifting, heartbreaking and heartwarming.
Bonaventure’s world is a place you’ll definitely want to visit.
Check It Out
RITA LEGANSKI WILL READ from “The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow” at Thacker Mountain Radio at Off-Square Books in Oxford at 6 p.m. April 11. It’s free. The Red Thangs will perform.
Learn more at thackermountain.com.
TITLE: “The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow”
AUTHOR: Rita Leganski
PUBLISHER: Harper Paperbacks, c. 2013
Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal