I picked up The Language of Flowers only because my new book club, the Girls Night Out book club, was discussing it in July. With some poking and prodding from Trish, I got off my butt and finally read the book on time (mostly) and was so thrilled to meet the group. And honestly, this is not a book I would've picked up on my own. Something about the premise made me expect cliche. I'm not too keen on "troubled young adults coming of age." I'm glad this one proved me wrong...
Victoria is turning 18 and finally free from the American foster care and adoption system. She no longer has to live in a group home, and she soon strikes out on her own facing homelessness and potential bodily harm living in the parks of San Francisco. Luckily, she find Renata, a florist shop owner willing to give Victoria a chance. We also find out about the biggest near-miss in Victoria's plight to be adopted growing up.
Throughout the novel, the chapters flip flop back and forth between Victoria as an 18-year old making her way in the world and Victoria as a child as she lands in the care of Elizabeth, a vineyard owner. While I usually object to this form of storytelling (again, I expect cliche and it's been done), I enjoyed it a great deal here. There are definite parallels between the two time periods and one can't help but pull for Victoria to get it right already. To grow some courage and sticktoitiveness.
The challenges Victoria faces are immense, and heaven knows I didn't agree with her choices much of the time, but I didn't find the narrative unbelievable. That is, everything she did seemed very much in character.
What ultimately saves this book from being a huge downer is the inclusion of "the language of flowers"...the Victorian system of communicating messages through arrangements of flowers (each variety has a meaning). Victoria is great with flowers and learned the language of flowers from her potential adopter, Elizabeth. Working in a florist shop, it makes her a huuuuuge hit, as the emotions the flowers represent manifest themselves in the recipients' lives. It's not a huge magical realist element, just a touch. And it's never portrayed as magical...might just be the owners' own intentions coming to life with a little extra push from Victoria's flowers to give them some confidence.
I haven't done the plot a particular lot of justice. There's A LOT that happens in this book, but I suppose you'll just have to read it yourself. Take my word, it's worth a try!
Snuggle -- Skewer
Edition Pub. Date: April 2012Publisher: Random House
9780345525550Source: Bought it!