Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Posted on December 4, 2011
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Hardcover, 322 pages
The Language of Flowers is not a sweet Victorian love story. It is, instead, a tough, gritty story about a young woman who is a victim of the of the foster care system. It is also an absolutely unforgettable story of despair, love, missed opportunities, and triumph. For a debut novel, it is stunning in its structure, flow and understanding of human motives. Once entered into, The Language of Flowers is not only difficult to put down, it is also impossible to forget.
The reader meets Victoria on her eighteenth birthday, the day when she is considered to be an adult and therefore no longer a responsibility of the foster care system. This section of the Victoria's story is labeled "The Thistle," which is the language of flowers is the symbol of misanthropy. Her feelings are raw, sometimes shocking and yet one becomes curious as to what caused such deranged thoughts. In the skillful hands of this new writer, the reader is drawn in and becomes fascinated with the stormy emotions of this girl, whose life is so different from the lives of most of us. Victoria's story is a revealing trip into the emotions of a young person who has only lived on the edge of society, deprived of both love and stability.
The setting is an important part of the entire story. The flower and wine growing areas near San Francisco, along with the wholesale flower market in the wine country, are stimulating to the reader. Imagining the incredible variety of flowers available in a place so perfect for their nurture is one of the special experiences. Added to this is a flower dictionary at the end of the story that will support the actions of Victoria and Grant's unusual love story.
Doubtless Vanessa Diffenbaugh writes with an extensive knowledge of the problems of young people who have been unlucky enough to be raised outside the normal range of what we as a society expect each child born to be a part of. This author writes from experience since she has been a foster mother herself. What she has to say in this, her first novel, will touch anyone who reads The Language of Flowers.
-- Sarah Reaves White