Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - REVIEW

First, I would like to point out on the sale page for this book at Amazon, which you can find by clicking on the TITLE of this book here: The Language of Flowers: A Novel, there is an EXCELLENT written Author Interview. The Author  discusses her life as a Foster Child Mother and how it relates to the book, and more. It is a GREAT Interview! You should NOT miss it!

On to the the Review!

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Goodreads Synopsis:
A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

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 grief, 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, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market 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.

My Take:
The author's quote from this book trailer, "What is it like to try to love if you've never been loved yourself?", is the premise of this novel. 
Meet Victoria, the main character, whose flaw is not having ever had a person love her or even just have another human being care about her. 
She does not know how to feel love, nor to give it, nor would she even know this was a flaw of hers, at least not with the kind of life she has lived so far. We get to watch Victoria grow and very slowly learn to feel emotions even when we feel she may never learn them, or does not learn them after self sabotaging herself time and again.
As we are reading, this book flip-flops back and forth between present day and Victoria's past, which we do really need to learn to understand where she her reactions come from and to understand her as a person better.  
Victoria was left as a baby with no information whatsoever. The court decided she was approximately three weeks old at the time she was left, so they gave her a birth date, which she calls her 'Emancipation Date', not an actual 'birthday' for 'her' celebration reasons she tells us. Sounds typical as it is the first of the month.
In the beginning of the book, we see Victoria having to leave the group home she was in because she had aged out. She turned 18. "Emancipation Day"! Unfortunately, another homeless person. Victoria is an adult, though! She should be able to make her way in life all on her own.
However, at this time, we do see a little more heart in her as she leaves the group home with the flowers she brings in and gives to certain people. Only 'she' knows the meanings of the flowers, so some of it is quite fitting. We see the growth she made with Elizabeth in all of her emotions now, yet we don't know everything behind all of this at this point in time. What I did was to flip back to the beginning of the book after I had finished the book and reread the first chapter. This made ALL the difference for me as I did so. 
At times Victoria is likable, and at others we detest her. At times we just wanted to yell at her and tell her what she is doing wrong. All we can do is keep reading. UGH! At one point in the book, I almost lost complete faith in Victoria.
Since Victoria has been in and out of numerous Foster Care and group homes her entire life, she never had the time to open up with anyone, or even share any feelings with another human being as no one had ever shown her any. She is not trusting, communicative, nor a loving person. She is very much to herself, even at the mere age of 10. This is when a woman by the name of Elizabeth takes her in. Elizabeth wants to adopt Victoria and is bound and determined to change Victoria and make her her daughter. Elizabeth starts to teach Victoria 'the meaning of flowers' as she owns an orchard and several flower gardens, plus a greenhouse. From the very beginning of this teaching, Victoria starts to make a book of flowers with their meanings, as she knows them to be. 
As Victoria turns 18, and is emancipated from the Foster Care System, she is given a little bit of money, a change of clothing, and is told she is free to go off on her own. She ends up living homeless, in a park, and makes a small garden of flowers there. 
A woman by the name of Renata happens to notice Victoria and her talent with the flowers. She gets to know Victoria and offers her some work in her floral shop she owns. Victoria takes the job, and it doesn't matter to her how much or little Renata will need her, she is happy to have work, and work with the  flowers she has come to know. Renata is so impressed with the amount of people who continue to return to her store requesting Victoria to get them flowers for this or that reason, she has her start to go to the flower markets early mornings. Victoria fills their orders, and they return happy, telling her she worked magic, as the situation they wanted the flowers for had worked. Victoria was not surprised as she knows the meaning of flowers and helped the people in that way. Renata, still so impressed with Victoria, helps her to find a very small place for her to live, but no larger than a closet in which a bed would not even fit in. Victoria could afford the rent, and was very happy with what Renata had done to help her. Victoria didn't care how large or small her own place to live was, but that is was her space. She could afford this. She was happy.
As Victoria is working for Renata, she starts to learn that the meaning of flowers as she knows them to be are not necessarily true of what she had been taught by Elizabeth. Renata's meanings are a little different than Elizabeth's meanings, and, she also learned some flowers can have several meanings. Victoria struggles through this. She must learn there are many more meanings to the many varieties of flowers than what she knows. This is somewhat disturbing to her. She wrestles with this fact, but starts to listen to Renata more to learn the additional meanings and adds them to her book.
Victoria meets a young man at the flower market. They become friends, and it turns into a somewhat dysfunctional relationship. Things happen from here, and it is vital that Victoria learns how to give love.
I really enjoyed this debut novel by this author. I hope she writes more in the future. Flowers CAN be included! I happened to learn a lot about flowers from this book myself. What is really neat is in the back of the Kindle edition, there is a glossary of a lot of flowers. I'm glad to have this. It's a nice edition to a few books I have already about the definition of flowers. Hey, what can I say? A girl LOVES flowers!
If you took the time to read the Author Interview at Amazon, you will see that the author is a Foster Parent herself, and deals with all types of children all of the time, in addition to her own. She is an advocate for kids who get 'emancipated' from the system, as well. Could YOU have supported yourself "completely" the day YOU turned 18? Put a roof over your head, pay the utilities, buy food and have a job to cover it all? She hopes this book helps to encourage "Us, the Reader's" to become inspired to help these young people in our own communities, make this transition. Hopefully, we all CAN help these young, 'still kids', as much as possible.
Read this book! It's beautiful! I HIGHLY recommend it!
I chose to read this book on my own. It was NOT provided to me for review. I had been eyeing this book for a little while, and every month I purchase '1' special book for myself, and this was it this month! Finally!
Thanks for reading my review!
(This cover below is the book Amazon has as the cover. The 'current cover' is listed above. I guess Amazon has not updated their cover yet? I don't know? Here's the link in case you would like to purchase and read this book!)

The Language of Flowers: A Novel by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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