Monday, September 26, 2011

The Language of Flowers / by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Life hasn't been all roses for Victoria Jones. Dumped at an orphanage by her birth mother, she's bounced around the foster care system her where she's learned to live hard and act tough. Though never much good at school and certainly not one to get along well with others, there is one thing Victoria has become very, very good at--flowers. A fascination born from spending years alone outdoors, Victoria self-educated herself on the world of flora, having learned by heart all of the different kinds of bulbous, long-stemmed and pollen carrying as well as learning to distinguish even the slightest differences between everything from geraniums to snapdragons and azaleas to tulips, even maintaining a slapshod garden of potted plants out of halved milk gallon containers. Now at the point of "aging out" on her eighteenth birthday, Victoria's more or less relegated to a life on the street where she's taken living (and gardening) in the city park. By chance when she aids a woman loading boxes of plants into her car, Victoria maneuvers her way into a job as an assistant florist where her gifts and most importantly her passions are put to good use.

A great novel about the beauty of nature offsetting the harshness of humanity, The Language of Flowers explores the importance of having a place and the significance of relationships within the families we make for ourselves. Victoria's not an especially secure person when she's first introduced, very much the tormented soul. It's not hard to see why as the narrative toggles back and forth between Victoria's life as a new adult and her girlhood a decade earlier. And yet the story may be that much more poetic for it. As Victoria learns from her boss the "language of flowers", how certain types of flowers can communicate various emotions from giver to receiver, she steadily begins to find her own place in the world. (FIC DIFFENBA)

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