2.22.2013

Friday Book Review! The Language of Flowers




It's been awhile since I've done a Friday Book Review, but I have been reading a lot lately. Winter is good for that. The book that I'll be talking about today is one that I read for a ladies book group. This was my first time with the group and it was very fun... but I'll get to that in a minute - first, the book!

The Language of Flowers is a book that is told through two parallel narratives. Each chapter trades off between the two stories. One is the story of a girl, Victoria,  recently emancipated from a group home, because she is 18. She has been shuttled from foster care to group homes her entire life, and now she has to make it on her own. The second story is also of Victoria, but at nine, coming to live in what looks like a wonderful foster home with a single older woman, Elizabeth.

This is what makes this story so compelling. We as readers know that she did not end up with Elizabeth because we are also following her as an adult, and she is heartbrakingly alone. So the momentum of the story is driven by wanting to know what could have happened to cause this seemingly ideal situation to fall apart. The author keeps you in suspense for  quite awhile, and the suspense builds even more when characters from the earlier story begin to show up in the more recent narrative.

The "Language of Flowers" comes into the story because during her time with Elizabeth, Victoria learns that flowers can have meaning, and can be used as a way to communicate. This is based on the victorian-era idea of floriography.  For example, if you were to send someone a bouquet that contained ambrosia, clove and heliotrope, you would be telling the receiver that you felt undying love, devotion and that love was reciprocated. It's a romantic idea and it's spun into the story in a charming way. Victoria, because she is so isolated and bruised emotionally, has difficulty getting close to others and expressing her feelings. But she is able to use this secret language to communicate with people that she cares about.

I won't give away the ending, but I will say that the story takes several more dramatic plot turns before Victoria ends up truly healing at the end. This book was pretty hard to put down. At times it was agonizing to see Victoria push away the people that cared about her. Interestingly, in the book group that I went to, there was a pretty even split between people who just couldn't bring themselves to care about what happened to her, because she was so cold, and those of us who felt empathy for her, and wanted her to succeed. Deep down, I believe in the resiliency of people, and I like to think that individuals can overcome adversity. So I was rooting for her.

That said, since it was a book about flowers, and it was around Valentines Day, the ladies hosting the book group made edible flower cocktails, and foods, there was also homemade sushi, chocolate covered strawberries and all sorts of other tasty treats. I wish that I had thought to take some photos! It was a really lovely evening.

An evening that took a very silly turn though, as one of the women decided that it was absolutely necessary for us to make a Harlem Shake video. I was totally unfamiliar with this meme until that night, but now I'm seeing it everywhere. Here's ours!! (I'm in the potato costume)




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