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Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

In The Language of Flowers, Victoria relates her story: she was an orphan, abandoned by her mother at birth. She's bounced from foster home to foster home, institutional setting to institutional setting, sometimes abused, never loved, except once. What happened to prevent her from being adopted by the woman who did love her? Well, that is a part of the story which I would not want to spoil for a reader interested in reading the book. More importantly, what will happen to Victoria after her emancipation from the foster care system? Will she learn how to love others?

Victoria is a scrappy character. As the book begins she's equal parts pitiable and spiteful.  She does grow up over the course of the book. In fact, that's kind of the point of the book, her growing up, becoming fully human.

The story is told in first-person narration from Victoria's point of view. The chapters alternate between her early days after emancipation, and her younger life. This was a good way to advance the story line, pieces of the earlier story illuminating pieces of the later story, but every so often something about her voice jarred a bit. Most of the time the later story felt recent, immediate, but then would come a sentence or two which would sum up those days of Victoria's life, and for those couple sentences it felt like the whole story was being told by a much older woman. This only happened a few times, but it really stood out to me when it did.

It is a realistic story, not at all fanciful or fantastical, but there is heavy symbolism and thematic elements (lots and lots of eating, for instance).

I did like the book, I did care for Victoria and want to know what would happen to her, but I did not love the book, I did not lose myself in it. I would cautiously recommend this book to readers of modern fiction. There are some sex scenes (argh!), but they're not horribly salacious.

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