Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: The Language of Flowers

I'm always amazed when an author can jump right out of the gate with a stunning, entrancing novel for his or her debut effort. Vanessa Diffenbaugh has done just that with her first novel, The Language of Flowers. Diffenbaugh skillfully weaves a story, jumping back and forth from the past to the present, and merging all the emotional investment into a redemptive and satisfying conclusion. It's not enough to have an interesting topic: here, the messages and meanings of flowers (a practice from Victorian times). If an author can take that topic and flesh it out with realistic characters and a steadily moving plot, they tap into a whole deeper level of meaning. I believe Diffenbaugh has done just that.

Victoria Jones is an unreachable foster child. Aging out of the system, she finds herself alone, with no job and no place to stay. But she has one thing going for her - her love of flowers. She takes over a small plot of land in a city park and begins to grow flowers. Then she stumbles into a job with a florist and quickly proves her worth. For anyone else, this new beginning would bring hope, but Victoria is convinced that she will mess things up as she has always done in the past. Her way with the flowers and her ability to match flowers to the sentiments customers wish to convey is the only thing keeping her afloat. But her past is bound to catch up to her at some point and she will learn the truth. Will she destroy everything she has gained, as is her habit, or will she find the strength to push into the life she really wants and make peace with the actions of the past.

I loved how the author developed the characters gradually. Victoria certainly has rough edges, but I really felt pulled in by her character and wanted good things to come to her for once. Moreover, I marveled at the perfect pacing - every other chapter dipping back into the past to set the stage for events in the present. I loved the conflict raging beneath the surface. And the flowers, while I wouldn't have been drawn to them normally, were full of significance and beauty. This was simply an outstanding debut novel. I'm eager to delve into further works by this talented author.

1 comment:

Amy Sorensen said...

I like this book a lot, too. We have it as a book group set at my library and it is SOOOO popular. It reminds me a lot of White Oleander, a book I loved but that has too much promiscuity for me to be able to recommend to just anyone. :)