The Language of Flowers

About the book:

A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is a beautifully written story. I especially enjoyed how the chapters alternated back and forth between the main character’s past and present, which truly demonstrated how she came to be the person she was. I have a few mixed feelings about this book. Victoria struggled throughout the book to really believe she was a decent person, capable of loving and being loved. Finally by the end, she figured out that running away was just not the best option anymore and decided to try to be part of a family. However, there were many times I just wanted to strangle her, too.

I believe my favorite part of the book was learning the language of flowers, and the meaning behind flowers, trees, and even moss. This goes back quite a few years to when there were hidden meanings in bouquets that gentlemen would give to their ladies. It’s a shame this has been mostly lost today. I only hope that the next time my husband sends me flowers he doesn’t send conflicting messages.

 

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Always Something There to Remind Me

Every woman remembers her first love. Maybe it was college, high school, or even younger. And after we grow up, some of us wonder what he is doing now, and others of us think What if? or If only I could go back….  No heartbreak is quite as terrible as the first one, and that experience changes some of us, for better or for worse. Beth Harbison’s book, Always Something There to Remind Me, takes the reader on a journey through many moments in her own past as it tells the story of Erin Edwards.

Chapters alternate (for the most part) between present day adult Erin, told in first person, and the past 1980’s Erin, told in third person. We learn how the past has shaped the woman she has become. In high school, Erin is madly in love with Nate Lawson, and he feels the same way about her. The problem is that they have found each other too early in life and things just don’t last. Over twenty years later, Erin has a daughter, (by a man she wasn’t in love with), and is now dating the perfect guy. Rick is handsome, considerate, well able to provide for a family, and he loves Erin and wants to marry her. The only problem is that he isn’t Nate.

The loss of her only love has defined Erin’s life. She doesn’t let anyone get too close, pushing them away when they cross that invisible line. And then something happens. Nate suddenly reappears in her life, and Erin feels the same way she used to as a teenager. But things are complicated now. Erin has her daughter, Camille, and Rick, while Nate has a complicated situation of his own. The book does have a happy ending, giving credence to true love. And although the ending was satisfying, it was completely unrealistic.

Beth Harbison wrote Erin’s story with such emotion that it really did take me back…. I can still remember the excruciating heartbreak that went on for years after my first love cast me aside. I’d see him out somewhere, then cry all night long and wake up with a sinus infection the next morning and have no voice left. Not that I’d ever want him back; I’m very happy and in love with my husband. The point is that I can remember the pain in vivid detail, which the author captured extremely well in telling this story. It was also a very quick, entertaining read that I was able to (almost) finish in one sitting. Chick lit isn’t my usual genre, but this book was recommended to me, and I did enjoy it.

Under the Mercy Trees

Under the Mercy Trees, by Heather Newton, is another book I won in a Goodreads giveaway. The author has written short stories before, but this is her debut novel.

Martin Owenby currently lives in New York City, having escaped the place of his childhood, Solace Forks, North Carolina. He is an unsuccessful writer, drinks heavily, and has meaningless relationships with various men. Martin is forced to return home to his family when his brother, Leon, goes missing. Bringing the Owenby siblings together again causes them to confront their past, and even present.

The author effortlessly weaves the past within the present story, showing how characters have been shaped and how they have come to be who they are in the present. Martin, a gay man who left his best friend Liza, the woman who loved him. Ivy, who sees ghosts and has been mourning the suicide of her son for twenty years. Bertie, Martin’s sister-in-law, who left her husband James for a three-day affair, who came back pregnant. And then there are the siblings’ children and friends who contribute their part to the story as well.

While I wouldn’t call this book a mystery, there was the question of what happened to Leon as well as the individual mysteries of the past. It is definitely a haunting, and even somewhat dark, family drama.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book. Initially, I did find it difficult to really get into it. It just didn’t capture my attention and I really didn’t want to read about “mountain people.” And keeping a written family tree and or cast of characters would have been helpful in the beginning as well. That being said, about a third of the way into it, I became engrossed with finding out what really did happen to Leon, as well as what happened during the past of the other characters that caused them to be who they were. I didn’t like all the characters, but that’s definitely a sign of a good story. Also, reading this book was almost reminiscent of some of the required reading from high school. In a few years, I believe it is very likely that this novel with be considered a true piece of literature.