Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Southern Voices Author Vanessa Diffenbaugh
I do not exactly know what I was expecting when I opened The Language of Flowers and started reading, but I do not think that I was expecting to be completely and utterly amazed and captivated by the story right from the very first paragraph:
For eight years I dreamed of fire. Tree ignited as I passed them; oceans burned. The sugary smoke settled in my hair as I slept, the scent like a cloud left on my pillow as I rose. Even so, the moment my mattress started to burn, I bolted awake. The sharp, chemical smell was nothing like the hazy syrup of my dreams; the two were as different as Carolina and Indian jasmine, separation and attachment. They could not be confused. (pg 3)
Those lines provided me such a lyrical and intriguing introduction to a beautiful story of a girl-from-the-system.
This is the story of Victoria, an 18-year old girl just emancipated from the foster-care system who, after spending the last 8 years in a group home, is finally free to live on her own. With nowhere to go, and no one to go to, she turns to the only source of comfort and solace that she has ever found: flowers. This is the story of how her past meets her present, of how she uses her gift of the language of flowers to inspire and heal the lives of those she comes in contact with, and how she eventually is able to heal her own life.
Diffenbaugh does a brilliant job of meshing Victoria's past with her present by providing readers with two distinct storylines, which are told in alternating chapters. In her present, she meets a Russian flower-shop owner by the name of Renata, and after proving her worth in the flowering business, is hired as an assitant. It is while working with Renata and venturing to the flower market that she meets the mysterious flower vender who knows the language of flowers too. She comes to find out that she has met him before, a long time ago. In her past, we learn of her childhood on the vineyard with Elizabeth, the woman who almost became her mother, and who taught her the language of flowers.
Throughout the whole novel, we know that things in her past do not work out, obviously, because we are reading her present, and that keeps you wondering why, and how, and compelling you to continue with the story. And the beauty of the novel, and of the language, and of the writing, continues, and readers will fall in love with all of the characters, from the crazy Mother Ruby to the gracious Renata to the patient and loving Grant to the motherly and forgiving Elizabeth. But readers will fall in love with the heroine of this story and watch her as she stumbles and falls, and picks herself back up, over and over; as she grows and learns and then retreats again; as she learns to love and forgive herself, and as she learns to love others, and most importantly, let others love her.
This is a story of growth and of redemption, of forgiveness and acceptance, of family and friends, of mothers and daughters. But most of all, love: love of self and love of others. Vanessa Diffenbaugh captures so many things in this one 300-page novel, and each emotion is felt so strongly and so powerfully. She draws you in to Victoria's story, as if you are a part of her life, as if you are watching her learn, struggle, and grow right in front of you. Her characters become your family, too, and you can't help but love them.
I only have praises for Diffenbaugh's first work--and you would never know that this is her first novel--for The Language of Flowers is powerful and beautiful, and it nestles deep in your heart. Thank you, Vanessa, for this beautiful work.
Mrs. Diffenbaugh will be one of the authors at Southern Voices 2012.
Request this book The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh-JP