“If I had thought of it, I would have left the new girl a milk jug full of fennel. The feathery plant and licorice-sweet smell would have been a comfort. But it was too late. I nodded goodbye to the room that would no longer be mine, feeling a sudden gratitude for the angle of the sun, the locking door, the brief offering of time and space.” Vanessa Diffenbaugh, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS
THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS by Vanessa Diffenbaugh was published in August and is 308 pages. I was sent a copy for review from the publisher, Ballantine/Random House, and read it because I’d heard others on Twitter raving about it. It lived up to and surpassed all the praise I’d read.
At the opening of the novel, Victoria Jones is eighteen, and therefore, no longer a ward of the state. To begin her life, she is given three months temporary housing and twenty dollars by the social worker who has handled her foster case for years. With that money, Victoria buys five gallons of milk, drinks each gallon, and cuts the containers in half to start a garden in her room.
It is at this early point in the story, when Victoria’s fingernails are dirty from stealing plants from suburban yards and cultivating them in the transitional home where she resides, that I fell in love with her. As the novel progressed, each chapter deepened and reaffirmed my commitment to her–starting with her past in cruel foster homes, touching her profound understanding of plants and what they mean, and moving through her times of peace, love, and also, terrible pain. Throughout the book her character achieves a true, gradual, and believable transformation.
The book moves back and forth from Victoria’s past to the present, and each character is rendered with dignity and empathy. Diffenbaugh weaves the characters and times together with the beauty and elegance of a well made bouquet, and presents them to her readers in a moving and powerful debut novel.
Reminiscent of WHITE OLEANDER but wholly original, THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS is sure to be a bestseller, and is one of my favorite books of the summer.
**BREAKING: As I was finishing the novel, Vanessa announced on Twitter that Fox 2000 bought the film rights! I will be the first in line to see the movie.