Rating: 4 out of 5 Lisianthus (for Appreciation)
The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable young woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past. (from RandomHouse.com)
Diffenbaugh's debut is stunning and heartfelt. Going into it, I wasn't quite sure what I was getting into. I am usually annoyed with stories that start out so depressing and emotional as though I'm being force-fed or cajoled into sympathy and, as a reader, that is never a good thing. However, Diffenbaugh managed to swindle me into Victoria's story quite easily. I think what did it for me was the relationship between Victoria and Elizabeth which becomes a central piece of the whole story.
This book is about relationships and communication, about what makes a family, and redemption and forgiveness. Victoria is a child who feels she will never belong with anyone because no one has kept her around long enough to love her. Elizabeth takes a chance on her and takes her in. Thus we see the blossoming of this unwanted girl into someone's daughter. We also see Victoria as a young woman, homeless and on her own. Diffenbaugh builds up the mystery of what happened between Victoria and Elizabeth with deft professionalism and nice storytelling. I found myself enthralled (I finished it in two days).
I think the powerful part of this book is the message of redemption. Not only does Victoria seek redemption, but so does Elizabeth, in their own ways. Catherine is a ghost figure in the book, but she plays a huge role in all of it, as most of the mystery revolves around her. I won't give too much away.
Grant is a strong character and the romance between him and Victoria is built up nicely.
I think where Diffenbaugh almost lost me was when Victoria has her baby, but I understand why Victoria had to become a mother. She had to experience what it was like to care for another human being.
This book has it all. It plays out like a chick-flick movie. One of those I'm Woman, Hear Me Roar type movies. But the message it carries is valuable to anyone who reads it. I loved the underlying Language of Flowers, learning about that, and how the characters used flowers to say things when they could not communicate.