Last night my book group met here to discuss The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. I was unenthusiastic about the choice of this book—something about the description turned me off—but I ended up loving it.
Because it seems that modern novels are never told in linear fashion anymore, this one's chapters alternate between our protagonist, Victoria, at age 9 and at age 18, the two major turning points in her life. Victoria has gone from one bad foster home experience to the next her whole life, until finally she is taken in by Elizabeth. Elizabeth loves her and teaches her and finally makes her begin to feel worthy and wanted. She also teaches Victoria the "language of flowers," a Victorian-era belief that all flowers have meanings—turns out that my favorite, alstroemeria, signifies devotion.
At 18, Victoria is just getting sprung from the latest in a series of group homes for teens—she has aged out of the system and is on her own. The intervening chapters tell what happened between the time she met Elizabeth and now, and then go on from there. I won't give away anymore, but I will say that Victoria's character was well drawn and believable, as were several others in the story. You really could imagine what it was like for Victoria to have always believed (rightly, for the most part) that she was the only one who could care about and for herself, and how hard it was for her to put her trust in anyone else. There were a couple of plot moments (one major one in particular) that didn't quite ring true to me, but I was able to forgive them because the overall story was wonderful and rewarding, and because the writing flowed so gracefully throughout.
All of us loved the book; one member of the group felt that it was a little too predictable—which it was, but for me that didn't detract from its overall power. Next month we're reading The Submission by Amy Waldman, highly recommended by Nancy.
So, I took the easy way out for hosting and, along with wine (and lots of pretty flowers, 'natch), simply bought every single snacky-type thing Trader Joe's sells and put it all out for us to nosh on—mixed nuts, dark chocolate–covered acai berries, cheese and grapes, you name it. I tried their new Raisin-Rosemary Crisps, which are delicious and unusual—very nice topped with goat milk brie. And I made an easy and yummy dip for the Veggie & Flaxseed Tortilla Chips, Crunchy Curls (made of potatoes and lentils and positively addictive), 12-Grain Mini Snack Crackers, and crudités:
container (7 ounces) pesto
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
½ cup sour cream (I substituted Fage Greek-style yogurt.)
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese
Whizzzzz it all together in a food processor.