On the Backlist: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

This book may be unsuitable for people under 17 years of age due to its use of sexual content, drug and alcohol use, and/or violence.

If you’ve been searching for a book that’s moving, thoughtful, and a little bit unexpected, The Language of Flowers could be just what you’re after.

From Goodreads:

A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

I will tell you, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that synopsis. The keywords that stuck out for me were Victorian, flowers, mysterious, and gift. Would this be a historical read? …a little bit paranormal? (It’s not at all, by the way–it’s very firmly contemporary realistic fiction. And when I say realistic, I mean it.)

Diffenbaugh has an exceptional capacity to convey authentic human experience. The overwhelming impression I took away from this book, other than just sheer enjoyment of reading a complex, sometimes heart-rendingly dramatic story, was one of pure pleasure in the writing. This story is difficult, at times, and heavily mature, emotionally, but there is something about it that’s entirely captivating.

I could go into more detail about what happens, here, but I kind of want to allow you to experience it the way I did: blind, and allowing it to unfold without really knowing much about where it’s going. I will promise you, though, that it’s a little different than anything else you’ve ever read, and that it’s absolutely worth your time. The characters are fully-emotionally-fledged, and I found the whole novel fascinating and near-impossible to put down.

Some language (Kindle says 3 f-bombs), during intense scenes. Some sexuality. I gave it 5 stars, anyway, which means I felt that strongly about my experience reading it.


5 Stars

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