Review: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski

March 11, 2013 Harper Perennial 5

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Paperbacks; Original edition (February 26, 2013)
  • ISBN-10: 0062113763
  • Source: Publisher

When Bonaventure Arrow was born, he didn’t make a sound. No cries or whimpers, making the doctors believe there was something wrong with him. After running tests, they are unable to determine a cause for his muteness; he’s clearly able to hear, even picking up on the slightest sound. Years later his silence continues but with time his mother, Dancy, a young widow, can see the brilliance in her son from the beginning. Though he doesn’t speak, she realizes there is something special about him, something that sets him apart from everyone else.

By the time he starts elementary school, Bonaventure is able to hear things like the color of a leave, the sound of blood rushing through his mother’s veins even though she’s rooms away. He can also hear the voice of his father, William, who was murdered by a mysterious man known as the Wanderer before Bonaventure was born.

It isn’t until Bonaventure starts school that he realizes he is different from the other children. He doesn’t feel animosity for his gift but it forces a rift between himself and the other children. He’s an outsider, witnessing life on the sidelines, watching the other children play realizing they will never welcome him as one of their own. It is the conversations with his father, the only individual who can hear him, that are truly heartwarming, yet heartbreaking at the same time. William and Bonaventure both crave to have a normal father-son relationship, but William’s murder prevents it.

It is Bonaventure’s silence that allows him to perceive and grasp things unrecognizable to others, including secrets his family has kept hidden that might tear it apart. Aided by Trinidad, a woman who comes to work in the family’s home as a cook, the two work together to allow the family to heal not only from William’s death, but the decades of devastating secrets kept hidden from the world. Bonaventure’s existence, it seems, was intentional. A young boy, unable to speak, meant to hear, to listen, to what was going on around him as no one else could.

A truly endearing and awe-inspiring story, The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow speaks to the power of listening, of hearing what is not spoken, of the love and compassion of family. What makes this a truly remarkable novel isn’t only the incredibly unique premise, nor the incredibly well-fleshed out characters, but the prose itself. Simply lyrical, I found myself reading passages aloud, just so I could hear the words spoken. I found this ironic, given the main character is mute. Perhaps this was the author’s intent, or perhaps it is simply a side effect of her talent as a writer. Following is one of my favorite excerpts:

Sometimes his silence let new sounds in, sounds with no physical memento to keep. Once, when he was playing outside, he looked up and translated the white of the clouds into the joyful noise of possibility. then he looked at the grass and turned the sound of green into the molecular chatter of growing things. In the pink and orange of a sunset, he heard the measured beats of earthbound time.

Set in 1950s New Orleans, the author embraces and incorporates the magical and mystical feel of this beautiful, southern city in her novel. While there is a touch of magic in life in general, Leganski shares with her readers a truly memorable magic: the power of love and healing.

The relationship Bonaventure has with his mother, Dancy, and his father William, is incredibly heartwarming. There is a closeness between them all, despite William’s death. His existence in “Almost Heaven” allows him to continue to visit his family, although it is only Bonaventure who can hear him. The exchanges between William and his son will bring a tear to the eyes of even the most cold-hearted of readers. William is overjoyed to have the opportunity to communicate with his son beyond the grave, but aches that he cannot reach out and hug him, console him, as he wishes.

This book is guaranteed to make a presence in book clubs with a host of discussable themes. She Reads, an online book club I am honored to have a role in, will be discussing it as the March selection. Check out what other members of the blog network think of this title and tune in later this month for a discussion.

A special thank you to TLC Book Tours for granting me the ability to participate in this blog tour. Please be sure to check out the official tour web site for other reviews in the tour.

5 Responses to “Review: The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski”

  1. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread

    I got this book through She Reads and I’m hoping to get to it soon. I’ve got a whole list of books I need to read first, but now you have me excited to make room for this one!

  2. trish

    I’m such a sap these days! Your sentence about “the power of love and healing” brought tears to my eyes. I’m so glad you liked this one! Thanks for being on the tour!

  3. Heather J. @ TLC
    Twitter: age30books

    I hope you enjoy discussing this with the She Reads book club Jenn!

    Thanks for being on the tour. I’m featuring your review on TLC’s Facebook page today.