Monday, July 30, 2012

The Languarge of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

4.5 Star

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 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 with nowhere to go, Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But an unexpected encounter with a mysterious stranger 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.

Lydia - 4.5 Star

The Language of Flowers is heartbreaking, yet hopeful, and shines as a debut novel. We meet Victoria Jones on her emancipation day, a day she yearned for after spending her life being shuffled from foster home to foster home, introduced to potential adoptive parents only to be sent back and finally living in group homes until the day she was finally free. Only her freedom comes with a hefty price. She no longer has a roof over her head and meals on the table and with no one to help her, no one that cares, and no source of income, Victoria crawls under some bushes in a local park where she struggles to come to terms with her new situation.

I wanted to grab Victoria and hold on to her. I loathed watching her struggle, both as a child and as a young adult. Her torment and anguish is palpable and I cheered for her even when she isn't always that likeable, yet at other times I wanted to give her a good shake for some of the decisions she makes. This novel wasn't as grim as White Oleander, another gripping novel about the foster care system, which I found refreshing because I wasn't sure my heart could take it.

This novel could feel contrived at times as good things happen to Victoria at just the right moments and she seems to find herself in the orbit of good people who gravitate to her. But I think this depends on how cynical you are. I prefer to have faith that good can come from even the most horrific situations, believe in the compassion of people, and have hope that I would do what Renata and Elizabeth did and not only help, but open my heart to someone who so obviously needs love in her life. 

I adored the uniqueness of the language of flowers and the depth it brought to the novel, and how Victoria used flowers to communicate. The gardener in me loved reading about the meanings of different flowers and I found myself flipping through the dictionary at the back of the novel several times just to see the meanings of the flowers I have in my own gardens. The flowers weren't the only unique aspect to this story. The characters, her eventual living situation and even the relationships she begins to have with others are all quirky and seem to fit her character.

I really enjoyed the ending. Although it ends on a more positive note, not everything is picture perfect which in my opinion probably wouldn't have sat well with me. Ultimately ending with a feeling of hope, I really enjoyed The Language of Flowers and anyone looking for a great read about adoption or the foster care system will appreciate this complex novel. I look forward to more from Vanessa Diffenbaugh!

I ended up buying this lovely novel, but you can find the publisher, Random House Canada, here.

Connect with Vanessa Diffenbaugh here:

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