adoption, book giveaway, book reviews, foster care system, fresh start, general market fiction, healing, northern California, redemption, relationships, san francisco, second chances, seven books in seven weeks, the language of flowers, troubled chidren, vanessa diffenbaugh
Throughout history flowers have been known for their beauty and fragrant scents. While commonly given as expressions of love and well wishes, their meanings became even more specific during the Victorian era. Dictionaries of the flower-to-emotion relationships were penned with care, but over time the language created for romantic expression faded to obscurity.
In Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers, the elegant art of floral communication resurfaces through the most unlikely of sources: eighteen-year-old Victoria Jones. The San Franciscan has just aged out of the foster care system and heads into the world with a chip on her shoulder and thorns in her heart.
She has no plans or ambitious dreams about her future, only a love for flowers and knowledge of their language that comes from a past failed adoption which haunts her. The details of that event remain hidden until the end of the book but one thing is clear: Victoria is so afraid of love and relationships, and so certain of her own lack of worth, she is determined to live as much of a life of isolation as possible.
But the need to survive forces her as far out of her shell as she believes herself willing to go, and she soon begins to use her connection with flowers to help others. She is given a fresh start at life in the company of people who want to make her part of theirs; but her past is like a jealous weed determined to prevent her from blossoming out of its muddy clutches.
A story of second chances, The Language of Flowers is beautifully written and emotionally draining. Victoria makes enough bad choices to tempt even the reader to give up on her; yet there is something about her personality shown through her first-person narration of the story that keeps one rooting for her.
I was torn between my compassion for her past and exasperation over how her current choices were negatively impacting her future. Sometimes I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shake her, other times I wanted to cry for her. In the end, however, I couldn’t help but like her.
When a girl does things like snatch a few extra donuts out of the box because her date is eating them too fast, you just have to like her.
Sometimes the story slowed down a bit, and on more than one occasion I had to flip back through it to find the meaning of a flower previously mentioned. I discovered halfway through the book that there’s a flower dictionary at the end. It would’ve been helpful to put it after the table of contents or at least mention it somewhere in the beginning.
Overall, Diffenbaugh did a wonderful job with her debut The Language of Flowers. It is a heart-wrenching and realistic portrayal of the struggles of a broken human heart trying to push its way through the weighted soil of a hard life, and open its petals to the hope and promise of the future.
I gave it four out of five stars. This book will be included in the book giveaway at the end of the Seven Books in Seven Weeks series.
Click here for the list of the remaining books: Seven Books in Seven Weeks: The List .
It was hard, but we found her! She and her shiftless gang of vacationers were spotted crossing the California border, stopping first in her hometown of Sacramento then heading north up to the great city of San Francisco. When we were close on her heels (we had leads that she ate at her favorite Vietnamese restaurant Thanh Long then boarded a charter to Alcatraz) she eluded us by fleeing to the small town of Lakeport and hiding on the Pomo Indian Reservation with her husband’s extended family. As the chase heated up we followed her up I-10 North to I-40 East. We could never quite catch up as she sped past the New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma borders (apparently the “don’t mess with Texas” signs didn’t scare her one bit). We tried to head her off at a family reunion, but by then she had already ducked out with a larger group to visit the 200 acre farm that’s been in her family since Indian Territory days. We tracked her back to Oklahoma City, keeping our distance while she tried her hand at the shooting range. We were sure we’d nab her after a stint on stage with a live band during an open mic session, but because the place was occupied by mostly family members, her clan made it possible for her to slip away yet again. We were just about ready to give up, especially when we lost sight of her on a middle of the night road trip heading back down I-40 West. We decided to stop by her house in Arizona to regroup and come up with a new strategy of pursuit. As luck would have it that’s where we found her. She was fishing scorpions out of the pool so she and her band of summer lovers could take a dip. We hid behind the potted herbs (long dead after several weeks of neglect in the merciless desert heat), and nabbed her as soon as she popped out of the water. Sorry it took so long folks. She gave us a run for our money, but we’ve managed to capture your missing writer and put her seat back in its seat.