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.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.
19 thoughts on “Review: The Language of Flowers”
I enjoyed this one as well. (glad you had a nice Christmas with family.)
I’ve heard so many glowing things about this book. Heather just read it and told me she was completely enamored, and was going to loan it to me. Can’t wait to give it a try.
This sounds like a good read. I’ll have to keep it in mind for next year.
It does sound enticing…even with the little quirks you mentioned.
Why is dysfunction so appealing?
I think I have to read it again, because I remember totally loving it, and yet when I think back about it, what comes to mind is the “wanting to shake Victoria.” So I don’t have it on my year’s top ten post for later this week, and yet when I read it, I thought for sure I would. I think I’ll schedule it for sure as a reread!
I just finished this one last week, and absolutely fell in love with it. I totally get you wanting to shake Victoria though, as that is something that I felt like doing numerous times. Aside from that this was an incredibly touching story, and one that made my best of list for the year. It was a story that just grabbed me by the heart and pulled. I am so glad that you enjoyed this one too!
One of the members of my book club works for foster care and read this book and has been singing its praises ever since. We’re going to read it for our April meeting.
This sounds like it has an interesting premise…I think that my book club would love this one. Thanks for the review Ti!
I’m glad to hear this is worth the read. I have it but then I read some reviews that weren’t so great so I hesitated to read it. Foster children have a special place in my heart, though sometimes I think I know too much from working in the field that I have a ton of frustrations and feelings of discouragement too.
I’ve heard from a few different folks who work in the foster care system, that they cheered for this book.
Great review. I’ve been curious about this one.
2 Kids and Tired Books
I need to look to see if I have reviewed this already… I struggled with it at times. I kept thinking ‘let’s get on with it’ but once I finished the novel I was happy I read it. It’s a lovely story and I did enjoy the flowers and discovering their language.
I’m so happy you liked this book. I have read good and not-so-good reviews but the fact that the author wrote about the foster care system thereby drawing attention to it and people are reading it is great. The author also started an organization to assist foster care kids when they have to go out on their own.
I’m intrigued by Victoria after reading your thoughts about her. I’m curious about how much of her distrustful nature is due to her difficult childhood. I think issues of abandonment, not feeling loved, loneliness can badly impact a person as an adult and cause them to make misguided decisions. I’m hoping I can find some interviews with the author (to read after I read the book) to find out how she came up with this character.
I also want to read this book because it’s about the foster care system. Since law school and my work as a prosecutor and then in social services I’ve believed strongly that the system needs a major over haul, there are so many problems not the least of which is kicking 18-year olds to the curb with $200 and a pat on the back so I was thrilled when Vanessa Diffenbaugh wrote this book.
I’m thinking maybe I should pick up this book now while I’m still battling pneumonia and not able to do much but rest ( I dislike that word right now!)
Terrific post, Ti, thank you!
I’m so sorry to hear that you still aren’t well. Is this the same round of pneumonia or did you get hit with a second round?
Is this a B&N Discover New Writer’s book? I think I’ve wanted to read it for a while, but I’m not sure. Sounds beautiful.
I’ve come across a few books in a similar vein of late but I confess I can’t quite bring myself to read one. Perhaps when I’m in a more optimistic mood.
Your reviews are always lovely and this is one that I will make time for in 2012!