Friday, July 22, 2011

The Language of Flowers Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel The Language of Flowers is the best fiction I’ve read this year. So good that I didn’t want to stop reading it, I’d tell myself just one more chapter and then get upset because I didn’t want to leave her character, Victoria, without finding out what happened next. From the opening chapter, Victoria’s story grabbed me emotionally. The beauty and the tragic realness of her character, the way she interacted with the people in her life, her heartbreaking hopefulness and self-sabotaging behavior kept me wishing that someone would see below the surface and bring healing to her wounded soul.

Victoria Jones is 18 and aging out of foster care in San Francisco. She is angry and hurting from being raised in the system. She has gone from house to house and group home to group home where her need for love and family were not met. At 10 she finds her best chance at adoption with Elizabeth, a woman who lives alone on a vineyard. She teaches Victoria about grapes and the names and meanings of flowers. It is the meaning of flowers that Victoria grabs onto and this language from the Victorian era helps her navigate through life.

I read this advanced readers copy through the Amazon vine program and can’t wait until it comes out in August 2011 so that I can buy copies. It’s a perfect gift, because it appeals to so many people: anyone who loves children, those who care about what’s happening to our marginalized kids, social workers, foster parents, mental health advocates, or gardeners, lovers of flowers, florists, wedding planners, midwifes and young adults. The list is long but there are probably more types of readers who would like this story. 5 stars, wish I could give it more.


Patricia said...

This book sounds compelling - your review also compels me to read it!! This book is definitely on my to be read list!
The title grabs me, too! I am not a gardener, but I love flowers, so I am interested in that part of the book.
Thank you for this post, Pamela.

P.S. On this blog, is there a way to follow you by email? or a way to send you a message?

Ελλάδα said...

This is a story of of needing to learn how to love. That seems unbelievable, doesn't it? Love just happens. We love our family, we love our friends, we love. We love. But, what if we never had a family, or a friend. What if a child were abandoned by her mother, the first person who would love her? What if she spent ten years with no one showing love, no one to turn to, not even a friend? What happens to love then? Victoria knew the answer. She knew what happens when one spends ten years without love. It becomes unattainable, or seems to. It becomes unbelievable, doesn't it? It becomes impossible. Victoria knew that. She also knew that no one would ever love her, and she set out to make it so. The sadness of Victoria and her spare, hollow life is a tangible thing. It is apparent to Renata, the woman who looked at a gaunt and empty young girl, and decided to try to help. She was careful to only help a little, lest she frighten Victoria away. She was circumspect and a little bit kind. She did what no one before, had managed to do. Victoria allowed her to become a friend. What happens in the days that follow are remarkable. The story grows like a vine around circumstance and coincidence. But then, some say, there is no coincidence. Some things are just meant to be. The journey that Victoria takes after meeting Renata, who is my personal hero in this story, is a journey with many twists, many turns, and many obstacles. But most journeys end somewhere, even if it is only at the beginning of a new journey. The back story, where we learn the language of flowers has its own elegance and beauty.

Belgie said...

I love the way the author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, allows us into Victoria, the young and the older, walking us through, helping us feel Victoria's emotions. I also feel that when we discover what is restricting Elizabeth, we understand that Victoria, whilst loved by Elizabeth, cannot truly be given the love that Victoria needs until something in Elizabeth's own life is resolved. I wondered how Elizabeth could not understand more fully what she has done to Victoria when she misses an important day/date in Victoria's. This is a little strange, for clearly she understands Victoria but also cannot see that that what is restricting herself means she cannot resolve some of the realities of Victoria's life.