Book Review: The Language of Flowers

10032672Title/Author: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Published: August 21st, 2011 by Ballatine Books

Hardcover, 322 pages

How I got this book: Checked it out from the library.

Why I picked It Up?: Because I had only heard great things about this debut author, and as she is coming to my library in a month, I wanted to read her book.

Book Jacket Blurb: “A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.”

My Review of this Work:

I do not exactly know what I was expecting when I opened this book and started reading, but I do not think that I was expecting to be completely and utterly amazed and captivated by the story right from the very first paragraph:

“For eight years I dreamed of fire. Tree ignited as I passed them; oceans burned. The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose. Even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, I bolted awake. The sharp, chemical smell was nothing like the hazy syrup of my dreams; the two were as different as Carolina and Indian jasmine, [separation] and [attachment]. They could not be confused.” (pg 3).

Those lines provided me such a lyrical and intriguing introduction to a beautiful story of a girl-from-the-system.

This is the story of Victoria, an 18-year old girl just emancipated from the foster-care system who, after spending the last 8 years in a group home, is finally free to live on her own. With nowhere to go, and no one to go to, she turns to the only source of comfort and solace that she has ever found: flowers. This is the story of how her past meets her present, of how she uses her gift of the language of flowers to inspire and heal the lives of those she comes in contact with, and how she eventually is able to heal her own life.

Diffenbaugh does a brilliant job of meshing Victoria’s past with her present by providing readers with two distinct storylines, which are told in alternating chapters. In her present, she meets a Russian flower-shop owner by the name of Renata, and after proving her worth in the flowering business, is hired as an assitant. It is while working with Renata and venturing to the flower market that she meets the mysterious flower vender who knows the language of flowers too. She comes to find out that she has met him before, a long time ago. In her past, we learn of her childhood on the vineyard with Elizabeth, the woman who almost became her mother, and who taught her the language of flowers.

Throughout the whole novel, we know that things in her past do not work out, obviously, because we are reading her present, and that keeps you wondering why, and how, and compelling you to continue with the story. And the beauty of the novel, and of the language, and of the writing, continues, and readers will fall in love with all of the characters, from the crazy Mother Ruby to the gracious Renata to the patient and loving Grant to the motherly and forgiving Elizabeth. But readers will fall in love with the heroine of this story and watch her as she stumbles and falls, and picks herself back up, over and over; as she grows and learns and then retreats again; as she learns to love and forgive herself, and as she learns to love others, and most importantly, let others love her.

This is a story of growth and of redemption, of forgiveness and acceptance, of family and friends, of mothers and daughters. But most of all, love: love of self and love of others. Vanessa Diffenbaugh captures so many things in this one 300-page novel, and each emotion is felt so strongly and so powerfully. She draws you in to Victoria’s story, as if you are a part of her life, as if you are watching her learn, struggle, and grow right in front of you. Her characters become your family, too, and you can’t help but love them.

I only have praises for Diffenbaugh’s first work–and you would never know this is her first novel–for The Language of Flowers is powerful and beautiful, and it nestles deep in your heart. Thank you, Vanessa, for this beautiful work.

My Bookshelf Rating:

5 shelf  A Top Shelf Book!

There are not many books who get fives from me, especially on first read, but I only have to read this novel once to know that it is     definitely worth a Top Shelf Rating. I feel like it will find a secure place on my favorite books list, too. Just beautiful.


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