The Language of Flowers
By Vanessa Diffenbaugh
(Ballantine Books, Hardcover, 9780345525543, 336pp.)
The Short of It:
Expressive and full of promise.
The Rest Of It:
Victoria Jones has lived in more foster homes than she’s willing to admit. Bounced around from home to home, she’s encountered all types of people, but no one has ever really cared about her, including her own mother who abandoned her as an infant. Her social worker, Meredith, continues to place her, hoping that one day, she will find a home that works for her. At nine-years-old, her options are running out and with a stern warning from Meredith, she is placed with Elizabeth.
Elizabeth is not like the others. She is a lonely but stable woman who takes pleasure in her vineyards. She teaches Victoria the language of flowers and how each flower conveys a specific meaning. Although battling her own demons, Elizabeth loves Victoria with all her heart, but Victoria does not trust her completely and when she misunderstands a phone conversation, Victoria sets out to destroy everyone and everything around her.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked this one up.I know in theory, that the foster care system is in place to protect children, but so often, I’ve seen it go the other way and that is why I was so hesitant to read this book. What makes this book readable, is that the chapters alternate between the nine-year-old Victoria and the grown-up Victoria who is emancipated and homeless. As a reader, I kept reading and hoping for a happy ending.
That said, I had a few issues with the adult Victoria. Granted, she was hurt numerous times and I could certainly understand her mistrust in nearly everyone she encounters, but there were a few times where I just wanted to shake some sense into her. What she considers a sacrifice, I considered a huge misstep on her part. Those who have read the book, will immediately know what I am referring to.
As frustrating as the adult Victoria was at times, I took great pleasure in knowing that with just a turn of the page, the story would turn back to the flowers and their meaning. This “language” was both comforting and fascinating and served as a means of communication for more than a few characters in the book. I never even knew such a language existed.
In the end, this is a book that I ended up liking quite a bit. It only took a few pages for me to get into the story and the writing was simple and effortless. A very impressive debut if you ask me.
Source: Sent to me by the publisher via Net Galley.
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