Reviewed by Jaya Rai
Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s debut novel meanders through the trials and tribulations in the past and present life of an orphan girl – Victoria. Through a distressing journey in which she tries to fit into various foster homes, and the inhuman treatment she receives at the hands of her foster parents, Victoria grows up into a cynical and almost a misanthropic person. Her agenda thereafter is to get thrown out of every foster home by being on her worst behavior until she reaches the age where it is declared that she can no longer be adopted. Thereafter she is given a month’s time to deal with life on her own and fend for herself.
The story is a poignant narrative of a person trying to come to terms with the emotions which she wants to keep buried because she has been so badly hurt and let down. Being shy of spoken language, flowers are the only entities which have a meaning in Victoria’s life. And it is through flowers that she manages to communicate with those around her. Her talent in this not only helps her survive the harsh reality of the world, but also helps her to stop resisting her natural emotions and accept them.
The dreary narrative of her life is rescued by the presence of sympathetic and benevolent characters who influence her and help her in overcoming her cynicism.
Vanessa’s experience as a foster mother does shows in her delicate treatment of the subject and enables her to depict the raw emotions with finesse. I do recommend the reading of this touching novel. The dictionary on the language of flowers appended at the end of the book is an added bonus.