Friday, August 12, 2011

LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher.

Victoria Jones is a damaged young woman emancipating out of the foster care system after years of being shuttled from one foster home to another and ending her childhood days in a group home.  Having difficulty with connecting with other people, Victoria chooses to express herself through flowers.  Her tremendous love of flowers and the Victorian language of flowers was cultivated through her time with a woman who came close to becoming Victoria's adoptive mother.  However, something terrible happened that forced young Victoria from this woman's house and closed the door on her finding a permanent home.  Now, as an adult, Victoria must learn how to care for herself.  A local florist sees Victoria's talent with flowers and gives her a job.  In this job, Victoria discovers that she has the power to help others through her communication through flowers.  When she runs into a mysterious man at the flower market, Victoria must begin to confront her past in order to get a second chance at a happy ending.

While much of this book will remind readers of LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE due to its magical realist take on flowers, Diffenbaugh has a unique perspective all her own.  As a foster mother, Diffenbaugh really understands the complexity of feelings within foster children and foster parents.  Victoria seems such an unlikeable person from the outside but Diffenbaugh skillfully reveals the inner turmoil that leads to her difficulties in connecting with others.  After all the adversity that Victoria faces, one can only hope that she gets a happy ending.  While the trauma in Victoria's past is a little anti-climactic when it appears and the love story a little forced, I really loved how Diffenbaugh chose to wrap up the book. The reader gets an ending as complex and varied as its heroine.

This is one of those books that gets you excited about learning something new.  I was so intrigued by the Victorian language of flowers sprinkled throughout the book that I had to head to my local library to find out more.  It is such a wonderful and creative construct to build a story around.  It adds a sense of romance and wonder to a tale that might otherwise be bleak.   After reading this book, I may have to change my favorite flower from yellow roses to something else.  I'll be consulting the flower dictionary at the back of the book for guidance.

BOTTOM LINE: Recommended.  I think Diffenbaugh has wonderful things to say about foster children within a greater tale of love, redemption and magical realism with flowers.  A really great read.

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