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The book I wished I could write

The Language Flowers Novel ebook

The Language Flowers Novel ebook

I have read many good books this year and had my top ten short list ready. Then, I picked up "The Language of Flowers" by debut novelist Vanessa Diffenbaugh. BAM! I could not stop reading this book. It's not a gooey love story with Victorian flora in an epistolary form.

It is an action-packed, heart-breaking journey with an 18 year-old, recently emancipated foster child. She has a wall around her heart, "like a nut." She fears intimate relationships, for all her life these have meant only moving on, moving away, and giving up those she cherished.

She is homeless. She is jobless. But she has been taught the language of flowers by one of her caretakers, Elizabeth. How Victoria takes her love of flowers and her connection with growing things to make her life something new is the journey of this book. She has help along the way from people at the flower market, Renata and her family, Grant, a young man who also questions his past.

Like moss, which thrives with no roots, Victoria finds that she can start anew in a different direction for her life than she would ever have predicted.

Diffenbaugh sets the story in San Francisco and the agricultural country to the north of the city. The cityscape and vineyards provide contrasting pieces of Annie's life experiences.

This is a beautiful book. It takes the readers to new places and teaches them new things, things probably not considered before. To me, that makes for a top-notch reading experience. More, more, more please from Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

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6 Responses to “Weave Shop”

  • Jeanie Guthrie says:

    The story of Victoria Jones is a difficult one to tell. I feel grateful for having read this book before its official release. The story begins with a girl, Victoria, nervous and wild and a ward of the state. We see her being jerked around from place to place by a social worker whose only emotion seems to be the relief she gets when she leaves Victoria at a new home. This officially spares her the burden that Victoria has become. There is not much of a back story on how she came to be in the foster system and or why, but it isn't really needed in her case. In fact I think it made it that more interesting and believable. Not all abandoned children reconnect with their birth parents and ride off into the sunset.

    We are transported from the present to the past (10 years to be exact) whit each alternating chapter. They start off giving us pieces of Victoria's past in group homes and her almost permanent home with Elizabeth. In the process of all this you learn a plethora of information about flowers that I never though possible. The names, oh the names and meanings!!! So brilliant. Victoria has turned 18 and is legally emancipated from the state of California and instead of rushing out to do what most 18 year olds in her situation would have done (party, drink, experiment) she takes the lonely road. She becomes homeless until a chance meeting gives her the opportunity to work using her talent for flowers. As a result, faces from the past reappear, old wounds reopened and new ones start to rip.

    There are so many instances that I wanted to just scream at Victoria! Ok, maybe not scream but just stop reading. I was so frustrated with her selfishness that I could literally spit. Then somewhere along I got it, I simply got it! I was made to feel the things she felt, resent the things she felt and dream of the things she wanted for life too. I understood her better than ever and then I truly understood her actions. The story was beautifully written. The pages just melted into one another creating an offering. Wanting you to see, see what happens to kids in foster care and see how all of our decisions affect our children more than we could ever know. I'm such a devoted fan of this book and will be purchasing a few copies for my friends. Although I wouldn't consider this book YA, I think it's an important story for everyone to read even if only to open a dialogue. At the end of the book the author so graciously gives us tender morsels of what is to be become Victoria and her new love. Go read this book!

  • Kristi Gould says:

    I loved this book. I could not stand to put it down. The writing and the imagery was spectacular. I was so drawn into Victoria's world I did not want it to end. Quite a few times I had to wipe away tears. I have read many debut novels in the last few months that were good. This is the best! It stayed with me days after I read the last page.

  • Leanne Poole says:

    I picked up this book meaning to read a chapter or two before bed and couldn't put it down till the last page at one A.M. This was the story of Victoria, abandoned at birth, who made her way through the California foster care system. Her last chance for adoption (at age 10) is with Elizabeth who lives on a vineyard, teaches Victoria about flowers and grapes loves her no matter how she lashes out. Something, of course, happens, as the book begins with her emancipation from a group home at age 18. I couldn't put this book down because I had to know what happened between them.

    I enjoyed this book particularly because the characters were deep and lovable and believable despite their flaws. Elizabeth had such wonderful intentions for Victoria, but her own pain and family struggles got in the way. It was wonderful to watch Victoria grow up and find her own way. I can't believe this is a debut novel- I can't wait for the next one.

  • Nathaniel Keith says:

    "The Language of Flowers," first-time author Vanessa Diffenbaugh tells the story of Victoria Jones, a suspicious, distrusting, deeply defensive product of the foster care system. As the novel opens, her group home housemates set fire to her bed, she endures a lecture from her soon-to-be-ex-caseworker, and moves into an apartment where the rent has been paid for a few months. Ending up homeless, Victoria manages to find temporary employment with a florist, due to her innate gift of creating beautiful, memorable bouquets. Then, she meets a fellow flower vendor who shares her ability to communicate with flowers - and it turns out he is someone she has met before.

    The narrative veers between the present-day, 18-year-old Victoria's reality and eight years earlier, when she was placed with a potential adoptive mother, Elizabeth, until something went catastrophically wrong.

    This is an extremely moving, well-written book. Victoria is a completely believable character, a woman who has been so badly betrayed and damaged by the system, she is almost feral. She trusts no one, least of all herself. It is difficult, sometimes, to watch her making poor decisions or lashing out at well-meaning people - difficult, but absolutely understandable. People who are looking for a novel where the heroine shakes off everything or magically heals overnight from the trauma will not find that here. The casual way Victoria recounts years of abuse or neglect just make it that much more authentic and searing.

    The supporting characters, although almost exclusively female, were excellent as well: Elizabeth, Renata, Victoria's employer; and Meredith, her platitude-spewing social worker. The male characters, even Grant, her fellow florist, are less compelling. The sections on the flowers and their various meanings were lovely and added a welcome touch of beauty to an otherwise harsh novel. The Bay Area setting was also lovely, and well-drawn. I also appreciated the appendix that included more information on flowers and their meanings.

    Like others, I did feel as though the momentum dragged a bit in the middle of the story. I had a hard time deciding between four and five stars, but the topic decided me. This book draws attention to the critical issue of assisting foster care children to make successful transitions to adulthood. It is a powerful and moving debut. I'm glad I read it and will look forward to future offerings from this author.

  • Yvette Cross says:

    Vanessa Diffenbaugh has written the book I always wanted to write. Throughout my career as a child welfare professional, I longed to write a book which would put into words the experiences, insights, and feelings I encountered every day. This is that kind of book. It perfectly captures the essence of the foster care experience and it's effects upon children, families, and society, and it speaks in a voice that anyone can hear. Most books on the subject either malign or idealize the system and the people involved, but these characters and situations rang true, with minimal exaggeration. Without jargon, defensiveness, or blame, this book "tells it like it is". And unlike those reviewers who argue about the appropriateness of the ending, I thank the author for the hopeful ending. There ARE those children who make their lives work; all are scarred, but some recover. Would it were all of them, but that won't happen until all of us, in and out of the system, recognize that what we are doing cannot possibly be our best. This should be required reading for policy makers, foster and adoptive parents, caseworkers, other professionals involved in the system, and anyone interested in the future of our children.

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