Tag Archives: Forgiveness

Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (3/5). Talk about a narrator that’s hard to like.

17 Jun

When one of the ladies in my book club recommended this to me, I was a bit hesitant but added it to my list anyway. When I saw it for 75% at a B&N closing sale, I had to pick it up. And then when the other bookie girls at work were looking for a book to read together, I volunteered my copy and they picked it. I’m glad I listened to that recommendation even though I was hesitant at first.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

 The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Victoria is about to age out of the foster care system and frankly she couldn’t care less. She’s only ever loved two things in her whole life: Elizabeth and flowers. Since she lost Elizabeth, she clings to flowers as tightly as possible. Elizabeth taught Victoria that there is a language of flowers and that people can communicate with the flowers emotions as specific as misanthropy and secret love. Victoria finds herself a job in a flower shop to pay rent and be close to the flowers she loves. Her natural talent finds her in the flower market where she sees someone from her past who will profoundly change her.

And now the spoilers. The story bounces back and forth between Victoria at 18 and Victoria at 11 when she lived with Elizabeth. The story’s unwind simultaneously and we discover that Elizabeth almost adopted Victoria but didn’t feel she could give her the family that a child ‘should’ have. Elizabeth wants to reconcile with her sister, Catherine, and nephew, Grant, to give Victoria a family, but Catherine’s illness makes this impossible. Elizabeth feels at a loss and Victoria feels rejected. In rage, she burns Elizabeth’s vineyard and claims abuse. In modern-day, Victoria meets Grant who has continued to live in the language of flowers and growing the blooms on Catherine’s farm. The two connect over their shared past and become lovers quickly, but when Victoria discovers that she’s pregnant, she’s not sure she can face raising a family or spending her life with one person.

I was hesitant at first, but I enjoyed the book more as it went on, though I was disappointed by the ending. Thus the 3/5 rating. Victoria is very unmotivated and very misanthropic at the beginning when she shuts out the only person that’s ever taken care of her. When she’s offered help, she turns away from it preferring to rough it on her own. She grows to be a small part of a family eventually and becomes more likable. I thought the ending was too happy. For such a down book, it had a very upbeat ‘the world is smiles and rainbows’ ending. I didn’t buy it.

I’ve never intimately known someone who is a product of the foster system, so I’m not a good judge of how accurate Diffenbaugh’s portrayal of Victoria is. Diffenbaugh herself is a foster parent and I trust her judgement that Victoria is an accurate portrayal. My coworker and I started discussing the book a bit and she was expecting the book to mention sexual abuse at the hands of foster parents but Diffenbaugh stuck to verbal and physical abuse.

Grant was by far my favorite character. He was so loving toward Victoria even when she pushed him away. He loved his mother, too, in his own way while she was alive. He came off as such a good person, it was hard not to like him!

It was hard for me to relate to Victoria but I could find myself relating to Elizabeth. She wanted someone to love who would love her back unconditionally and I think that’s something a lot of people look for. I’ve known for a long time that I eventually wanted to get married so when I dated, I was looking for someone to love me back unconditionally and I’m lucky that I found him early in life. Unfortunately, Elizabeth took it a bit too far and wanted to develop a traditional family when one wasn’t needed, but I think her heart was in the right place.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I liked the flashback scenes to Victoria’s time with Elizabeth. It gave a really good background into her character and helped explain why she was acting the way she did in the present part of the book. I liked that the author told that story slowly because it kept me engrossed in the book and wanting to know more!

As I said above, the ending was really disappointing to me. Victoria’s story was so much about loss and abandonment that it felt wrong for it to have a happy ending. I felt it would have been more appropriate for her to have either Grant or the baby, but both seemed like a stretch. I don’t think her character was ready to handle both relationships and I think she would have snapped.

Overall, the book was about forgiveness. Elizabeth had forgiven Katherine but Katherine couldn’t forgive. Elizabeth forgave Victoria but Victoria couldn’t forgive her. Katherine’s loneliness killed her while Victoria was able to reconcile with Grant, her baby, and Elizabeth and have a happy ending. I don’t like how it was told, exactly, but it works.

Writer’s Takeaway: I loved how Diffenbaugh used the language of flowers to give the story guidance. The subject kept coming up in so many parts of the book and affected so many of the characters in different ways. It helped Renata’s customers find happiness, it helped Victoria establish a successful business. It helped Grant connect with Elizabeth. I loved how central it was to the book and that gave it a very ‘real’ feeling to me. Characters should be passionate about something the way I’m passionate about writing or my co-worker is passionate about golf. Victoria had a passion for flowers.

I enjoyed the meanings in the names. The daughter’s name Victoria who lost herself in a Victorian language of flowers. Grant even names their daughter after a flower (Hazel). It was subtle, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Slow start and slow end, but I enjoyed the middle. Three out of Five stars.

Until next time, write on.

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Book Review: The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (3/5)

21 Jan

My first audiobook of the year is done! The women of my book club had mentioned reading this book and how much they enjoyed it so i decided to grab it myself. My mom loved it, too. I wasn’t in love with it, but I really enjoyed this book.

This book fulfills “Foreign Countries: Egypt” for my Where Are You Reading? Challenge and “Pre 1400” for When Are You Reading? Challenge. This is book 3 of the year on my way to the goal of 35.

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

Cover Image via Goodreads.com

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

Dinah is only briefly mentioned in the Bible as the son of Jacob and sister of Joseph. Anita Diamant gives us a sweeping life story of this woman and her life growing up in the 1700s BC. Dinah is the only daughter of Jacob and beloved by her mother and three aunties, Jacobs other wives. The women covet their time spent in the Red Tent, where women spend their monthly time. The women pass to Dinah their knowledge of raising children and living with men, glad to have a girl to pass this knowledge to. One of Dinah’s aunts, Rachel, is a midwife and Dinah apprentices herself to Rachel, learning the skills and tricks her aunt uses to deliver a live child to its mother.

Dinah meets and falls in love with the heir to a local principality and for the first time, feels that she is her own woman. Her brothers object to her marriage because they know the bride price will add to the family wealth and that the oldest son will be richer than the other brothers. In their anger, Dinah’s husband is killed, leaving her alone and with child, too angry to rejoin her family. She travels with her mother-in-law to Egypt and raises her son to be a famous scribe.

I loved the description of ancient life in this book; it really stuck with me. Things that today seem so rough and primitive were very normal in Dinah’s everyday life. Diamant did a wonderful job of bringing the life of these people to life in a respectful way. The first person point of view really helped this.

The one thing that I thought seemed off to me was the level of autonomy that Dinah had. Her mother and aunts did not have as great a level of freedom as Dinah seemed to have in her later years and this is because Dinah was an accomplished midwife. Though this seems logical, I felt the story was a little feminist  and showed a more modern idea of feminine freedom because of Dinah’s position.

Dinah’s story is about forgiveness and family. In her childhood, she feels that her family has been betrayed by her grandfather, Laban, who lords over her father Jacob and will not let the younger man have his own life. When Jacob is finally able to leave, he does so without looking back because Laban has not asked for forgiveness. After her husband is murdered, Dinah too runs away from her father without looking back. When Joseph is to return to Jacob for his sons to receive the grandfather’s blessing, she is overlooked. Her brothers and father do not recognize her and she feels shunned. Right before she turns to leave, her brother Judah comes to speak to her, having recognized his sister. He gives her a token of remembrance of their mother and Dinah is finally able to forgive her brothers and father, knowing that they have not forgotten about her and still love her. This is a forgiveness her mothers were not able to give to their own father and I think Dinah is glad to have forgiven Jacob.

When I think about it, this book is really Biblical Fanfiction. Dinah is mentioned briefly in the Bible as the daughter of Jacob but not much else is known about her. I always raise an eyebrow when something that is published could really be counted as fanfiction. Reader, what’s your opinion on published fanfiction? It’s a topic of interest to me.

As far as other discussion points on this book, I’m sure there are many worth of mention, but I really didn’t like this book very much and I’m not the best person to discuss it further. I’ll put some related posts below that you can explore for some other reader’s opinions.

Writer’s Takeaway: I loved this book from a historical fiction point of view. You man know, Reader, that I’m a big historical fiction junky and this time period is not one that’s available very often. It was obvious that Diamant did her research and brought to life an era long since gone. This book is a wonderful example of well executed historic writing.

As I said, the book was good and I enjoyed it, but it’s not memorable for me. There were too many characters for my taste and a lot of them ran together. Three out of five stars.

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