Michelle's Reviews > The Language of Flowers

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
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's review
Sep 23, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: 2011, contemporary-fiction
Read from September 23 to 24, 2011

I loved this bittersweet book about a newly emancipated foster child and her love of flowers. This writing is just how I like it, clean, not (pardon the pun) flowery. The author does use some variation of “the silence hung between them” a few too many times, but other than that, the prose is exactly the kind that appeals to me. I love that the main character, Victoria, grew up in foster homes and you believe this. She is often unsympathetic (and frustrating!) but you have empathy for her. At no point is she a magically formed “regular” person. Every action is believable of someone who grew up “in the system.” The ancillary characters (especially Renata and Mother Ruby) are also engaging and true.

Though I adored this book overall, the ending was a little too simple for me, particularly considering the complexity of the characters and their lives. The realization of “that thing that happened” packs a wallop but the conclusion felt somewhat flimsy in comparison. Also there are times the message/plot/writing is less than subtle. That said, the foster angle is skillfully rendered and as both a former guardian ad litem, working in the foster system , and as a mother to daughters, the parts with a young Victoria really, really affected me.

This is vaguely “Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake,” another work I loved. The “language of flowers” theme really ties this book together and is perfectly told. The end includes a dictionary of flowers and it’s impossible not to go through the definitions and think about where you’d plant each or how you might use their messages to convey your feelings. I read one review that said “there are book clubs that have theme parties based on a literary work's ambience. In this case the festive possibilities are mind-boggling.” Indeed. What would you put at each person’s place setting in your book group to convey a particular message?

Reading the acknowledgments it’s clear the author herself is a foster parent. I give her huge accolades for not only taking on this tough role but bringing to light the bleak heartbreak of children in group homes. What is it they say? 50 percent will be homeless. As a guardian ad litem, my kids that “aged out” are the ones who haunt me the most.

Very well told. Loved this debut fiction.
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01/23 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Amy (new) - rated it 5 stars

Amy Hatvany Looking forward to your thoughts on this one!

Michelle Absolutely loving it so far!!

Jodie So glad you liked it too. Great review.

Michelle It was great! The author is very impressive. She's 33 and has helped raise multiple foster children. This book got a one million dollar advance but it seems she's really using the money to spread the word about the foster system and make a difference. Huge kudos to her for shedding light on the topic AND donating time/money.

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