Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Language of Flowers

For the past several months I have read debut novels almost exclusively. As many of you might know, debut novels can be exhausting. I’m not saying they can’t also be good (or very, very good), but writers tend to pour everything into a first novel. However, some debuts, such as Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, can read more like a seasoned 4th or 5th novel. Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut, The Language of Flowers, is another example of a debut novel that transcends the habit of overreaching and offers up a very well-written story.
In the book, we are introduced to Victoria Jones. Victoria is a perpetual ward of the state. She has been through foster home after foster home because of her behavior and other contributing factors. At the age of nine, one year before the state will deem her “unadoptable” and destined for group homes if she is returned again, Victoria is placed with Elizabeth. Suddenly, a girl who has never felt loved, wanted, or worthy of anything, is placed with a woman who offers her the promise of adoption and family.
Elizabeth changes Victoria’s life by listening to her and expecting things of her. The arrival of Victoria causes Elizabeth to want to reconnect with her estranged sister, Catherine, so she can share the joy of her new daughter. In an attempt to make contact with her sister, Elizabeth teaches Victoria the lost art of communicating through flowers. The two work tirelessly to create the perfect messages for Catherine. In the midst of this, Victoria’s insecurities and mistrust get the better of her because she feels threatened by the idea of having to share Elizabeth. Victoria loses several things through the course of the story, but the language of flowers becomes her saving grace.

Diffenbaugh’s novel was published in 2011. Unlike most books that decline in popularity over time, The Language of Flowers is still not readily available on our shelves. If you want to read it, which I highly recommend, place yourself on the holds list. The wait will be worth it.

ASTER: Patience

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