The Language of Flowers: A Novel
It's nice to think of more ways for people to communicate, different forms of messages they can send. This idea of particular kinds of flowers communicating specific meanings, and that one should consider these meanings when they give them, rather than just picking what's prettiest... I mean, it's not for me, I guess, but I can see the appeal. And on top of this, Diffenbaugh outside the book seems to be a pretty admirable person, helping fundraising for kids getting out of foster care, for reasons that will soon become evident. On top of that, she's a pretty good writer, in a craftswoman sense. For those of you thinking there's a but coming, yeah, here it is: but this book didn't exactly do it for me.Our protagonist, Victoria, is coming out of foster care as an adult, and she's had a really rough time of it, as one is given to understand is usually the case for those emerging from foster care. She's rather a hard case, very closed off to others, and upon getting out, basically takes up being homeless for a while. But she understands flowers, and the messages they send, and before too long, she gets offered a job at a small flower store run by Renata, a pretty strong-willed woman in her own right. She helps out around the store, making bouquets that match the language of flowers she learns, growing the business... and meeting a guy, Grant, who is a flower wholesaler, and who has a definite link to her past.So that's the setup for the story; we get Victoria's current story, along with the story of her last and best chance at finding someone to adopt her, a flower-loving woman living alone in a large house in the California countryside named Elizabeth. Clearly, since Victoria ended up in foster care, even though Elizabeth is caring and accommodating, but pushing back against Victoria's acting out, slowly taking her in and building a bond, eventually this must fall apart, so the story has that tension going for it: not knowing how things are going to fall apart, and seeing how this plays out against Victoria's troubles in her more grown-up setting, with her way with flowers and trying to build connections, with people in general and with Grant and Renata in particular. She's quite a broken young woman, Victoria, and there's a lot of work to be done in getting back to a good and sane place.Let me here give credit to Diffenbaugh as a writer again: the characterization is deftly done (generally), and the construction and pacing of the story, matching the pace of the two time periods well to each other to build connections, lulls and character beats, and different climaxes in the two times working to build the mood in the story. And she commits to the concept with the language of flowers, as well; including that glossary at the back is definitely a wise choice, and I went and looked at it at rather a sizable number of times.Here's that but again: just... as much as I liked the writing, and I think the characters work, my disbelief just didn't really hold. Victoria is a scarred and hardened individual, certainly, and her behavior's quite erratic. I get that people would make allowances, but they really go too far, overall, and she is just unbelievably, incredibly lucky in the modern story. The backstory stuff is better, and I like the bond building with Elizabeth and everything, but the modern setting... I mean, she does some fairly crazy things that I think we're supposed to sympathize with, but I don't really get to sympathy, and also just lands a lot of luckiness. Just gobs of coincidences and people having nigh-magical powers to divine her life. Either she is the most captivating person that has ever existed, or the contrivances are laid on too thick. Not that everything goes well, but when they go bad, still... the contrivances and the coincidences, oh, the contrivances and the coincidences. I couldn't take it. And Grant, man, I couldn't really take Grant. I liked him overall, but he's really like this side of a fairy-tale super-patient hero who'd never been and would never be interested anyone else but Victoria. He belong in more of a romance novel than here, I think.I want to accept the story, and I liked the writing and the setting and all, but it's still rather problematic. I want to say, really, this is a book that has some good stuff going for it, and it wasn't a hard read, but I just couldn't take the story. I wouldn't say don't read it, exactly, but I wouldn't go out and jump on it, either, really. The begonia on the cover of the book means caution in the language of flowers presented in the book, and I get why the author chose it, but I'd assign it a second meaning on top of that one, personally.