Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Language of Flowers ~ my review

The Language of FlowersThe Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

You cannot read Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel The Language of Flowers without emotionally engaging. You’ll want to hold some characters long and lovingly; others, you’ll want to punch in the stomach. You’ll cheer. You’ll boo. As young Victoria Jones struggles to overcome serial childhood rejections, you’ll find yourself wishing you could call her and urge, “No, sweetie, run toward love, not away,” but you can’t. She has to decide on her own.

Briefly, Victoria is a rebellious, angry ward of the state of California from birth through age 18, at which point she sets out on her own with nothing but a love for, and prodigious knowledge of, flowers learned from the foster mother she had when she was 10. That foster mother, Elizabeth, was Victoria’s first experience with acceptance and love. Although Elizabeth’s childhood had been quite different, she knew enough of rejection and betrayal to know and give Victoria what she needed. But Victoria’s pattern of self-sabotage prevailed, and the state removed her from Elizabeth’s care. The rest of the story concerns Victoria’s first two or three years struggling as an independent adult to live, to work, to overcome her overwhelming fear of abandonment, and to make peace with her past, including Elizabeth.

Diffenbaugh’s examples of aspects of the U.S. child welfare system are interesting, as are the intricacies of traditional meanings of flowers. Periwinkle, tender recollections ~ yellow rose, jealousy, infidelity. That this novel’s main characters communicate through flowers is enchanting. The kindness and generosity of Victoria’s first boss are quieting and inspiring. Victoria’s gift for choosing flowers based on her sense of flower shop customers’ longings ~ ranunculus, you are radiant with charms ~ is a productive use in adulthood of animal instincts she developed in childhood to protect herself. To make peace with her past, Victoria tries and fails, tries and fails. But she is honest and determined. When all is said and done, don’t we all have to overcome fears in order to feebly attempt love?

View all my reviews

No comments: