20 July 2011

The Language of Flowers


I hate to start a review by saying “OMG I loved this book!”. But that’s the first thought that comes into my head. Because I did LOVE this book.

The writing flows across the pages, and the characters are vivid and realistic. The book opens with Victoria waking up on her 18th birthday, and leaving a group home and the foster care system behind for emancipation. The chapters then alternate between her life in the present day, and her life as a nine year old, living at a vineyard with Elizabeth, her last foster mother. The one who wanted to actually adopt her and be her mother for real.

Victoria has never loved, never felt loved. She can’t stand to be touched, and will vomit when someone places a hand on her. She does not trust anyone, including herself.

Through Elizabeth, she learned to love flowers and their meanings, and she uses them to communicate with others, despite the fact that the people she gives flowers to do not know the messages behind them. Her knowledge and gift for putting together the perfect bouquet leads her to a job with a florist and an unsettling encounter with a vendor at the flower market.

You so want the young Victoria to be adopted by Elizabeth and live happily ever after, but we know from the first chapter that she spends eight years in a group home. As the two stories unfold, Victoria’s past and her present collide. At times it’s beautiful, at times it’s heartbreaking.

This is an enchanting story of love and loss, of redemption and forgiveness, of finding ones way in the world. I sat up in bed long past the time I should have been asleep, racing to the end of the book, and yet when I reached the last pages I wanted to linger, not quite ready to leave Victoria and her flower dictionary behind. 

Vanessa Diffenbaugh will definitely be on my watch list, and I look forward to more from her.

(I received this ARC from Random House.)

1 comment:

  1. An elegant memoir-style book showing how one may not have to be taught to feel love but definitely may need to be taught HOW to show love and be loved. The effects of unsuccessful foster care are heart breaking. Although a condition for the protagonist is never discussed, it screams of Radical Attachment Disorder. I love the way the author shows that no matter how old you get, there is a child in all of us whose injuries affect our present lives. And the meanings of flowers discussed throughout and shared at the end...oh! a whole new world of symbolism has opened up for me as a reader!