Friday, April 20, 2012
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Pub. Date: Random House
One thing I've always enjoyed reading about is a character who has a passionate hobby or interest that helps them define who they are and cope with life's stressors. It's also something I deeply encourage with the clients I work with -- I think we too often slight ourselves by blowing off those interests we wrongly consider luxuries when, in fact, they're more like necessities. (ie. reading and blogging for me!) All this to say that I was hoping that was one of the things I would find in The Language of Flowers, and it so was; but I also found a what turned out to be a hopeful story about a girl who initially feels she has never belonged and who believes herself to be unlovable and unworthy. The book starts out on Victoria's 18th birthday -- also the day she has to leave the foster care group home she has spent her adolescence in. As is common, there's little in the way of resources for children who age out of foster care, so we follow her as she lives a sparse lifestyle. Back when she was a young child and had the one foster placement that almost worked out, she had learned the language of flowers and the art of communicating with them. This art ends up playing a large part of her current day life and was fascinating to learn about.
The story is narrated by Victoria and the chapters alternate from the present day and the past. Both stories were equally intriguing, and I found myself enthusiastic to read more every time the chapter changed and I was able to return to each of the time lines being narrated. In the present day, Victoria runs into someone from her past who unwittingly brings Victoria back to face some secrets that have plagued her for years. There was a suspense as each of the story lines progressed to find out what did happen to the one great foster placement and what was the big, horrifying secret.
My one gripe was that at one point I thought the relationship between Victoria and one of the other characters was a little maudlin and maybe unrealistic. But this relationship had a large part in Victoria growing throughout the book. Victoria was a heartbreaking character because she has internalized such negative messages about herself, but her character reflected an astuteness in the author; the ways in which Victoria's experiences affect her beliefs about herself and her ability to attach to others was written with great acumen. The story went in a direction I wasn't expecting, but it worked well to create the growth necessary. I loved the last two paragraphs for the message it provided -- a great way to wrap up the story and something I'm sure I'll return to in the future just because I really loved the message.
I definitely recommend The Language of Flowers for readers who like great characters, a storyline that you'll invest in and that will keep you guessing, and that includes a fascinating side subject you probably haven't read much about (language of flowers). There is also a flower dictionary included in the back of the book which is a fun addition (because by the time you're finished reading the book, you'll want to look up what all your favorite flowers signify!)
I am fortunate to be able to offer a giveaway to one lucky winner in the U.S. or Canada. To enter, just fill out the form below. I will announce the winner on Saturday, April 28th!