The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow: A Novel

( 34 )

Overview

Conceived in love and possibility, Bonaventure Arrow didn't make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. No one knows that Bonaventure's silence is filled with resonance—a miraculous gift of rarified hearing that encompasses the Universe of Every Single Sound. Growing up in the big house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, Bonaventure can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He can also hear the gentle voice of his ...

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Overview

Conceived in love and possibility, Bonaventure Arrow didn't make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. No one knows that Bonaventure's silence is filled with resonance—a miraculous gift of rarified hearing that encompasses the Universe of Every Single Sound. Growing up in the big house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, Bonaventure can hear flowers grow, a thousand shades of blue, and the miniature tempests that rage inside raindrops. He can also hear the gentle voice of his father, William Arrow, shot dead before Bonaventure was born by a mysterious stranger known only as the Wanderer.

Bonaventure's remarkable gift of listening promises salvation to the souls who love him: his beautiful young mother, Dancy, haunted by the death of her husband; his Grand-mère Letice, plagued by grief and a long-buried guilt she locks away in a chapel; and his father, William, whose roaming spirit must fix the wreckage of the past. With the help of Trinidad Prefontaine, a Creole housekeeper endowed with her own special gifts, Bonaventure will find the key to long-buried mysteries and soothe a chorus of family secrets clamoring to be healed.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In her debut novel, set in 1950s New Orleans, Leganski chronicles the life of young Bonaventure Arrow, a mute child with extraordinary hearing, born to recently widowed Dancy. Although Bonaventure doesn’t speak, his inner life is filled with chatter, produced by sources ranging from other people’s emotions and thoughts to colors and inanimate objects. He can also hear the dearly departed, most notably his father, William, who was murdered shortly before Bonaventure’s birth (“He’d built up a great store of words, every one of them left unspoken, save for those telepathic talks with his father”). Bonaventure’s gift makes him keenly aware of the continued grief over William’s death that both his mother and paternal grandmother, Letice, quietly harbor in the house they share. Bonaventure thus convinces them to hire Trinidad Prefontaine as their cook, knowing that her mystical powers, which harmonize with his own, could be instrumental in freeing them from the weight of the past. Leganski’s lyrical if sometimes overwritten prose underscores the magical realism that appears throughout the novel. Agent: Wendy Sherman, Wendy Sherman Associates. (Mar.)
Dolen Perkins-Valdez
“Rita Leganski has crafted a dreamlike 1950s Louisiana. In the middle of that world stands our mute, but not voiceless hero, Bonaventure Arrow. So endearing, so wise. His love for his family will lift and inspire you.”
Rebecca Rasmussen
“Brims with love and magic. It’s a timeless and lyrical story about the difference between hearing and listening, forgiving and redeeming. Bonaventure Arrow, an imaginative and special young boy, will claim your heart from the very first moment you meet him.”
Todd Johnson
“An imaginative and touching story of the surprising ways that we heal. Rita Leganksi has created a gem in Bonaventure, a young boy who cannot speak but whose silence rings with truth and humanity. If I could hear a fraction of what he does, my heart would explode with joy.”
Katrina Kittle
“I happily ignored my real life commitments for the magical, mysterious world of this novel about secrets, forgiveness, and healing of all kinds and my ‘real life’ has been better for it ever since.”
Booklist
“This mystical fairy tale set in a 1950s-era Louisiana rife with religion, superstition, and tradition draws you in from the wondrous first page. Silence has never been so boundlessly eloquent.”
Historical Novels Society
“This debut novel is a tour de force. It’s a beautifully, lyrically written fantasy and it captures the languorous mystery and allure of New Orleans . . . Magical.”
Trevor Smith
“The story keeps you enthralled as each new page seems to offer up new questions that beg answers. Leganski’s meticulous attention to the details of the plot provides answers in a revealing and entertaining fashion.”
Kirkus Reviews
A magically evocative novel set in New Orleans in the 1920s-1950s with a large cast of fascinating characters, each of whom harbors a secret. The prose is lyrically rhythmic and waltzes the reader through the various stories that circle closer and closer to each other until they ultimately merge, resolving the many mysterious and intriguing questions raised along the way. The baby boy, named for a saint, cannot speak but was gifted, early on in his mother's womb, with the ability to hear the vibrations of the world around him: heartbeats, blood flow, feelings of kindred spirits however far away in time or place. His father, William Arrow, is shot and killed at a grocery store by a crazed man whom no one can identify. This happens shortly before Bonaventure's birth, but William's spirit stays close to his family and speaks to his son throughout. Meanwhile, William's mother, Letice, has a terrible feeling she knows who the killer is and believes the murder was an act of vengeance. Physically and mentally injured and unable to speak coherently, the killer is committed to a mental hospital for the criminally insane and referred to as The Wanderer, or simply John Doe. A private detective hired by Letice is eventually able to uncover the truth that Letice always suspected. A fine novel about love, loss, revenge and forgiveness that also touches on themes of race and class discrimination.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062113764
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/26/2013
  • Series: P.S.
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 378
  • Sales rank: 126,930
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 7.82 (h) x 1.02 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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Read an Excerpt

The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow


By Rita Leganski

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2013 Rita Leganski
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-211376-4


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

GIFTED


Bonaventure Arrow didn't make a peep when he was born, and the doctor nearly took him for dead. But the child was only listening, placing sound inside quiet and gaining his bearings because everything had suddenly changed. The water chant was gone, as was the oxygen whisper and the comforting beat of his mother's steady heart. Where were the voices? Where were the dream tones? Where was the hum of the ever-present night? Bonaventure didn't know what to do with all that loss. The world he'd known had vanished. Been swallowed up whole by harsh light and shocking coldness and a terrible, hurtful, clamoring dissonance. He shivered when the doctor handed him over, but he gave no hearty newborn cry. Instead, Bonaventure listened hard as he could for that missing steady heart.

Bup-bup, bup-bup.

The heartbeat was lost in a lot of other sounds now, but was strong enough to bring forth a calmness that allowed him to be wide eyed and hopeful. His mother, Dancy Arrow, thought she heard him cry from a long way off, but that was nothing more than a trick of the anesthesia.

Bonaventure stayed like that, all wide-eyed and hopeful, and continued to keep his silence. People worried about it right away. Except for Dancy. She was too taken up with what else was missing to grasp that her baby was quiet all the time.

Bonaventure settled into the hospital nursery, finding comfort in his swaddling blankets and coziness in the confines of his bassinet cocoon. He matched voices to touches, and footsteps to nurses, and formed a great fondness for the ticking of clocks. His silence gave pause to the experts who examined him; here was a curiosity beyond their expertise. (They could never have explained Bonaventure anyway because there is no scientific word for miraculous.) They knew nothing of Bonaventure's rarefied hearing, the acuity of which was an extraordinary grace and an unearthly symptom of the mystery behind his silence. They didn't know that through his remarkable hearing he would bring salvation to the souls of those who loved him. Nor did they know that Bonaventure's silence was full of sound that came to him in the same way it had come to the universe when space expanded to form nebulae and novas and all things celestial out of a divine and loving pulse.

Bup-bup, bup-bup.

All told, Dancy and Bonaventure spent a week in the hospital, as mothers and babies did in 1950, and then they were discharged. It had been determined that they were hale and hearty and that this silent situation was not the end of the world.

"Mrs. Arrow," the doctor said, "you have a fine healthy boy, though we are greatly concerned that he has yet to make a sound. You must pay special attention to the matter and come back to see me in six weeks or so."

To which Dancy smiled and said, "Thank you. I will," and though her heartbeat stumbled, she said no more than that. In the deepest places inside herself she was joyful and jubilant and over-the-moon about her quiet baby boy. It was just the numbness that kept her subdued, like a sleepwalker who puts one foot in front of the other on a journey she won't even remember.

Luckily, Bonaventure heard one small sound of his mother's dormant joy, and that small sound was enough. The nursery at home on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline held all the receiving blankets, diaper pins, and talcum powder anyone could want, as well as a rocking chair right next to the window. It was an altogether fitting place for twinkling stars and lullabies and dishes that ran off with spoons — there was no hint of unusual circumstance, no visible trace of tragedy.

Bonaventure managed the breathing sounds that all infants make, but they had nothing to do with larynx or vocal cords or deliberate intentions. Nevertheless, his mother was in love with those unintended noises and with everything else about him: the translucency of his eyelids and the lilting look of his brows, his tiny feet and toes, each perfect little nail, the plumpness of his sweet bottom lip. Sometimes a look passed over Bonaventure's face while he slept, as if he'd seen something spectacular in his dreams, and Dancy would try to imagine what it could possibly have been.

Six weeks went by and Bonaventure maintained his silence. Without even realizing it, Dancy gave up listening in favor of watching and did the best she could.

"Has he made any sound at all?" the doctor asked. "Any crying, any fussing?"

"Well, no crying, but he does fuss some," Dancy told him.

"How do you mean?"

"I mean if he's hungry he scrunches up his face and kicks his legs and stretches his arms up over his head. And if he's wet or he's messed in his diaper, he squirms around until he gets cleaned up."

The doctor lowered his head and smiled the kind of smile one puts on pity. Then he gave that smile to Dancy and said, "We need to do some tests."

"Maybe he just needs a little more time. After all, he was born two weeks early."

"I'd like to do them soon, Mrs. Arrow."

Dancy nodded and held Bonaventure closer, kissing the soft spot on the top of his head.

A physical examination showed no irregularities, and auditory tests established that Bonaventure could definitely hear. In fact, it was obvious that he responded strongly to even the faintest sounds. This was believed to be connected to his muteness in some way, but no one could quite say how. It became a matter of much speculation. There were those who were certain his condition was a blessing, and those who feared it might be a curse. Dancy Arrow wondered fearfully which one it was. She was wondering about it on a Wednesday afternoon when Bonaventure was five months old. She was rocking him to sleep in the chair by the window when the suggestion of blame smoked in through the keyhole, for even a shut door won't keep blame away. Dancy continued her to and fro rocking, an unspoken apology sitting on her lips. Had she abandoned her child for the sake of her loss? Had she failed to pay attention when she held him in her womb? Was Bonaventure's absent voice her fault, too? She sang a song to him then and put a kiss on his forehead; he lay in her arms looking up and directly into her eyes. Then he knitted his brow in a serious way, which gave him the look of a very old soul. He slowly breathed in and breathed out three times, then smiled up at her with all the strength he had.

Dancy had been wandering ever deeper into mourning, and Bonaventure had beckoned her back. And that became the moment in which Dancy Arrow knew there was something more to her little one's silence; knew it as surely as if some talkative angel had come into the room and told her so. She wasn't sure what to do with this realization, so she set it down in the back of her mind and turned her thoughts away. She moved to the daybed, lay down on her side, and wrapped her arm around her baby as if to put him back inside her.

Dancy had missed the other side of Bonaventure's silence. She did not realize he could hear her heartbeat whenever he wanted to. She was unaware he could find the sound of her blood flowing and of the inflation and deflation of her lungs no matter how far away she was. She had no idea he could hear a bluesy trumpet in a French Quarter alley, or the shuffling of tarot cards in a Bogalusa sanctum, or the echoes of footsteps made by the Acolapissa more than three hundred years before, or the fog rolling over Saint Anthony's Garden some fourteen miles away.

Bonaventure Arrow could hear conjured charms and sanctified spirits deep in the marrow of New Orleans. He could hear the movements of voodoo queens and the prayers of long dead saints. He could hear the past and the present. But even had she known all that, Dancy would not have imagined that such hearing was only a bellwether of what was to come. She could not understand that Bonaventure's muteness was not a handicap at all but a gift — an extraordinary, inexplicable, immeasurable gift that allowed him to hear what no one else could. The silence that had taken the place of Bonaventure's voice was the very same silence in which exists the Universe of Every Single Sound, a place that reverberates with perfect peace and mirthful bliss, but also with despair's deep moaning and the whispers of secrets.

Two such secrets lived right there in the house on Christopher Street in Bayou Cymbaline, while yet another was scattered over miles and miles and miles. Those secrets were waiting for Bonaventure to hear them and find them and take them out for healing. They would have to wait seven more years, for Bonaventure Arrow needed to grow into his gift; after all, he was only a baby. And he needed to join with a kindred spirit, one Trinidad Prefontaine — a female Creole servant, childless and widowed, who lived in Pascagoula, Mississippi, at this time.

As for Dancy, Bonaventure was the child she loved with all her heart, and a tether to the time she simply thought of as Before.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow by Rita Leganski. Copyright © 2013 by Rita Leganski. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 34 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(23)

4 Star

(8)

3 Star

(2)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 34 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 4, 2013

    William and Darcy met and fell immediately in love.  When Dancy

    William and Darcy met and fell immediately in love.  When Dancy ends up pregnant they quickly head to a Justice of the Peace and get married.   Their life was perfect until, on William’s birthday, he was shot and killed.  A pregnant Dancy grieves so completely that it affected her unborn baby, Bonaventure.




    Bonaventure is born a healthy baby, except he made no sound.  No crying, no fussing.  He was born special and those closest to him knew it.  He has superb hearing, not just hearing but the ability to listen.  Using the talent he helps his family heal, releasing the dark secrets and their hold on his family.




    When I read the description of this novel I was intrigued and hopeful for what I would be reading.  Rita Leganski did not let me down.  This was a slow read for me, not that I didn’t want to keep reading, but I was pulled so deeply into the story I found myself slowing down and savoring every word.  The descriptions of every character made them seem so real.  The sounds Bonaventure hears made everyday items, that I never stop to think about, come alive. 




    What really won me is over is the relationship Bonaventure has with his mother and father.  His mother, Dancy, never doubts that her son is perfect, exactly as he was suppose to be.  His father, who has passed away, comes back as a ghost and manages to connect and share all the valuable lessons a child needs to learn from their father.




    This has to be one of my favorite reads of 2013 so far.  I can already hear my book club discussing and loving this novel.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    One of the most original stories I have read in a long time....

    One of the most original stories I have read in a long time.... I was completely enthralled from the first chapter all the way until the last page.  A must read!!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 5, 2013

    Different kind of story! Great!

    This is a story about a mute child who has extra super hearing. Hee feels and senses things about people, rocks, everything in his world. There are family secrets, voodoo, the spirit of a dead father interacting with his son. This could have been a bummer of a book, but instead it has a special spark. I read a LOT, but never have read such an unusual but riveting story. So, just suspend reality for a bit and sit down with this really very special book!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 4, 2013

    Magical

    I loved the style of writing in this book. The characters were well-developed, and the writing was lyrical, so much so that I found myself re-reading sentences over and over because of the charm of the words.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 29, 2013

    Special story

    This book is captivating, extraordinary, and special in ways that will delight your senses and touch your heart. Anyone who has ever glimpsed the wonder of a child making a discovery or taken joy in the simplest elements of nature will be swept away by this incredible novel. I loved every minute spent in the company of Bonaventure Arrow!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2014

    WOW!!!

    This is absolutely beautifully written. I've read a lot of books that make me think, but this one made me feel and appreciate the littlest things in the world around me. You will smile, you will laugh, you will tear up and you will cry (just a little). I'm so glad I found this little gem of a book.

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  • Posted February 18, 2014

    What a pleasant and entertaining book!

    What a pleasant and entertaining book!

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  • Posted January 26, 2014

    enjoyed this one a lot,

    I especially liked the setting .

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2014

    Beautiful

    Loved it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2014

    2nd reading

    I loved this book so much I am reading it for a second time. Beautiful descriptive writing and characters that make you want to read on.

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  • Posted January 10, 2014

    a gift

    ME: An avid reader, a conscious reading snob. For me to review a book at all everything has to be there; plot, characters, pacing, and (mostly) good writing.
    THE BOOK: Nails it. An enthusiastic 5 stars.
    From the first I was drawn in with the rich and languorous writing style. The word I kept finding myself using to describe it was "delicious". The plot unfolded nicely in a setting that was captivating in and of itself. The characters developed in such a way that I really cared about them. The pacing of the conflict kept me reading without sacrificing writing style (per typical best-sellers) and made the resolution immensely satisfying.
    Apparently this is the author's first book. I encourage you to support her by buying her book!

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  • Posted January 5, 2014

    more from this reviewer

    Haven't read this book yet, but the reviews remind me of "P

    Haven't read this book yet, but the reviews remind me of "Perfume" by Patrick Suskind. This is a great book set in 17th Century Paris. The main character was born under difficult circumstances and not expected to live but does. He has a heighten sense of smell -- smells which lead to murder. Well written and all consuming novel. I will read "The Silence of Bonaventure Arrow" and hope it is as sensational as "Perfume". Since I have not read this book yet, I can only guess at my rating of said book.

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  • Posted December 20, 2013

    Outstanding

    This book is superb. At least once in every few pages, the author gives you a smile -- in the beautiful, precise way she may describe something or the human insight one of her characters may provide. You rarely find writing of this quality in the mystery genre.

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  • Posted November 16, 2013

    One of my favorite books of the year!

    I loved this book. Rita has a way with words that put you in the scene filled with the wonder of the leading character. I have told many friends about this book and they loved it as well. I knew the author before she wrote this book and was astounded at the talent I was not aware she posessed..Highly enjoyable..

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2013

    Five stars

    A must read. I connected with the story right from the start. It was beautifully worded all the way throught. Bonadventure is a character that will have a place in my heart for years to come.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 24, 2013

    Fernkit

    Padded to res one

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2013

    WOW

    This book was excellent. The character development was so well done I truly felt like I knew each character. The writing was superb, particularly the descriptions of how things sound to Bonaventure. It is a sad story but ultimately one of healing and most importantly of living- not just existing but truly living. Rarely do I like a book enough to truly recommend it but this one should be read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 14, 2013

    Delightful read. A beautiful melding of prose and poetry... I w

    Delightful read. A beautiful melding of prose and poetry... I would give it 5 stars but felt that the initial energy lagged a bit toward the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Wonderful writing

    This author has a wonderful way with words. I can't begin to note the times that the descriptive language took me into a world that was shadowy images and total imagination. It transported me to a place ,where I could almost smell the damp earth and humid nights of the Louisiana countryside. My only criticism of the story was, that I would have liked more detail about what happened to the protagonist as he grew up and overcame his issues.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 3, 2013

    Wonderful beyond words!

    I never imagined the sounds this mute little boy could hear. The descriptions were stunningly beautiful. When i read the author's bio I was equally surprised this was her debut novel. Well done! I highly recommend.

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