Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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. (Synopsis from Goodreads)

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a stunning debut novel that will forever change the way you look at flowers.  Diffenbaugh weaves a tale about love, faith, endurance and one woman’s battle to overcome her troubled past.

The story takes place in San Francisco and centers on protagonist Victoria Jones.  Victoria has grown up in the foster care system and has now become emancipated. Diffenbaugh slowly peels back the petals in Victoria’s present and past life, giving us a glimpse of the dynamics that make up this complicated young woman. Told in Victoria’s voice, we see her struggle to communicate with the world around her.  It is through flowers that she is able to express herself. Yellow roses mean jealousy, winter cherry signifies deception, and starwort gives welcome.

As a young adult, Victoria finds employment at a flower shop, and using the language of flowers begins to communicate with others.  News of her gift, spread and soon people are coming to her for flowers.  She meets a young man, who patiently tries to communicate to her through flowers. Their romance is bittersweet and will not leave the reader untouched.

As we journey through Victoria’s past, we learn how she came to communicate with flowers.  When she was ten years old, she was taken into the home of Elizabeth.  Victoria suffering from a life spent in a myriad of foster homes and facilities is detached, doesn’t like to be touched and trusts no one. She fully expects Elizabeth to reject her.  Elizabeth opens up her home and slowly shows her the meaning of love. She teaches Victoria the language of flowers.  It is through flowers that Victoria begins to communicate and forms her first bond with another human.

As the tale weaves back and forth between the past and present, answers are slowly revealed as to why Victoria is on her own and no longer with Elizabeth. The story will captivate you, as you are swept up in this heart-breaking, truthful tale.  Diffenbaugh brings voice to human tragedy, our failed foster-care system and the hearts ability to endure and overcome.

I highly recommend The Language of Flowers to everyone.  The novel is beautifully written and the transition from past to present is seamless.  I am adding Vanessa Diffenbaugh to my list of must read authors. This novel would be perfect for a book club and an excellent gift for the reader on your list. 

I want to thank netGalley and Random House Publishing Group for providing this ARC, in exchange for my unbiased review.

I gave this book 5 coffee cups out of 5. 

Buy here: B&N or here: Amazon
Author's website: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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At November 16, 2011 at 2:28 PM , Blogger Blodeuedd said...

Sounds truly good :D I saw that the library are planning to get it so good news for me

At November 16, 2011 at 2:59 PM , Blogger Melissa said...

I'm so glad you loved this...we're going to read this in January with my book club!

♥ Melissa @ Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf

At November 16, 2011 at 3:51 PM , Blogger Jennifer said...

I've had my eye on this book at the library but haven't taken the plunge. Sounds pretty good. After reading your thoughts I'll definitely give it a read.
Thanks for visiting and following my blog. I'm an old follower. :)

At November 16, 2011 at 4:05 PM , Blogger lisa :) said...

This sounds like such an interesting story. I love the Victorian concept of different flowers for different emotions - I wish we still practiced those nuances in gift giving in today's society!

At November 16, 2011 at 6:22 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I loved this book! Especially in this day and age of casual, meaningless media. I would love it if a man took such pains to communicate with me.

At November 18, 2011 at 3:16 PM , Blogger lisab said...

Beautiful review Kim.

At November 18, 2011 at 6:28 PM , Blogger MissKimberlyStardust said...

I've heard such great things about this book. Can't wait to read it you wrote a great review Kim!

At November 18, 2011 at 10:10 PM , Blogger anaavu said...

How cool looking! Too bad I can't still request it on netGalley. Have you read the Dovekeepers? Which do you like better?

At November 19, 2011 at 12:44 AM , Blogger FairyWhispers said...


thank you , that's really sweet of you.

new beginnings eh?

would you like me to grab your button?


At November 21, 2011 at 9:01 PM , Blogger Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

such a great book! Like Stephanie said, wouldn't it be wonderful if it were common for people to take the time to communicate through the slower, more thoughtful 'language of flowers.'

Have you read about the author's work with the Camellia Network, helping young adults transition from foster families to life on their own. Inspiring.

At November 22, 2011 at 12:39 PM , Blogger Donna said...

Wow! Awesome review! I had been debating grabbing this book, this review just sealed the deal.

At May 7, 2012 at 4:58 AM , Anonymous Luxembourg said...

Language of Flowers is an engrossing, touching, human story that has a lot to teach the reader about the life position of children without families - as well as introducing us to the language of flowers.


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