Okay, okay, okay. This slump has gone on long enough. I’m putting my foot down. I’m tired of feeling slumpish, and I’m tired of everyone and their pet frog asking me why I haven’t been blogging more. Even the husband, who is supposed to me on my side always, without asking questions, told me I’m being “blog lazy.” Meh. I hate it when he’s right. 😉
This is what I’ve read, and actually finished, recently: And wow- that little stack of books is full of some good stuff. Kate Chopin?! Rainer Maria Rilke?! Be still me beating heart! But that’s going to have to wait until another day, because…
I read Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flower’s first. I’m not going to lie, I picked it first because it had a build-in book mark. More hard backed books should have these! It was both handy, and it couldn’t have cost that much, and it made me pick this book before a ribbon-less one. If ever I am a book publisher, you’ll be able to tell my books by their colorful ribbons. Well, that, and hopefully the impeccable quality of the stories we publish.
Victoria is a child of San Fransisco’s foster care system. Abandoned as a baby and then bounced from potential adoptive family to group home to over-crowded foster homes with regularity, she is about to turn 18 and be emancipated from the system with no support network, friends, or even a highschool diploma. She lands in a halfway house, where she can board free for three months, but without any skill other than a love for plants and an uncanny knowledge of the Victorian language of flowers, she is unable to find a job, and ends up living in a park.
But her knowledge of flowers and their secret language isn’t nothing. She’s been using it for years to subtly often unnoticeably communicate with those around her. Peony’s for anger, thistle for misanthropy, lavender for mistrust. Soon, a kind but solitary florist discovers Victoria’s talents just when she is on the verge of starvation, and is beginning to both look and smell like a street dweller. Grateful for the opportunity to learn an art she loves, Victoria throws herself into her new work, gaining the devotion of several patrons, and the eye of a handsome young flower farmer. But the young man brings with him the ghosts of Victoria’s most painful memories, and challenges her to step out of her past and overcome her hurts to live a full life- or, more accurately, to actually live for the first time in her life.
Richly written in a beautiful, flowing style, The Language of Flower’s was stylistically sound, while still being easy to read. The themes of motherhood and family will undoubtedly strike a chord with almost any woman, and were well-developed with feeling forced. Diffenbaugh’s first-person narration drew me in and flowed easily between past and present without being choppy or confusing. It’s a testament to how well the novel is written that I was so drawn into Victoria’s world, which, honestly, could have been easily unlikable. Victoria is stand-offish and distrusting. She doesn’t like physical touch or any type of intimacy, and she shys away from any lasting connections. While it’s understandable and realistic given her history of both abandonment and abuse, if handled by a less skilled author it could have been much more difficult to read. As it is, I came to a certain understanding with Victoria. My quirks and hangups might be different from her’s, but I certainly have my fair share. And what 18-19-20 year old hasn’t felt that they were just too strange, too flawed to ever be truly understood or loved at one low point or another? Victoria and I are about as different as possible, but I got her, and that’s critical to appreciating this often painful, though ultimately redeeming, story.
My favorite aspect of the book, though, (aside from the built-in bookmark) is what the almost forgotten art of the language of flowers added to it. I’ve heard before, of course, that different flowers mean different things, like red roses mean love, white roses mean purity, etc., but Diffenbaugh’s extensive knowledge of the hidden meaning of flower’s adds a special depth to this novel. Really, the flower’s become a silent character in this story, similarly to how the town of Paris was a featured in Sarah’s Key, or Hogwarts Castle in Harry Potter.
Ha! There, I did it! I posted a review. Slump, I am over you. Get thyself out of here! And tomorrow I really will be back. I can guarantee this, because the post is already almost finished. Also, I’m rewarding myself with chocolate for every blog post until I’m back in the swing of things. Or maybe even after that, insuring that I’ll here, blogging, forever. I am Full. Of. Win.