Flowers Without the Attic

The Art of Arranging Flowers - Lynne Branard
We become who we are meant to be because of the things along our edges that pulls us into existence.

Just to be clear, I do not hate this book. I believe this will please a very specific reader demographic which I am unfortunately not a part of. But the disappointment from where I stand is just too palpable for me to justify to myself the 3-stars that this probably does deserve. I was expecting romance: the heroine owns a dog, somewhere a sweet veterinarian turns up, THE FREAKING COVER IS PINK WITH A LADY HOLDING A BOQUET OF FLOWERS, how can I not brace for something like that incredibly emo 90’s film Bed of Roses? (on a defensive note, back in the day Christian Slater was actually hot) I mean kudos for going against the stereotype, but is it too much to hope for something less narcoleptic? Maybe some original sentiments on the contemplations about life, death, family and the universe?

The book tells the story of Ruby Jewell, a 45-year old former-lawyer-now-florist in the small town of Creekside helping the townsfolk with their lives. Through the magical voodoo powers of her flower arrangement.

She watched me put in several stems of white flowers, lilies, orientals and long narrow callas. She asked me a lot of questions about the choices I made, and I had explained that the colour white promotes healing of spirit, that white light is a natural pain reliever, increasing and maintaining energy levels and reliving depression and inertia. White dispels negativity from the body’s energy field.

Much of the book focuses on Ruby running her shop and how her craft manages to do these feats of wonder with a bit of grosgrain and gerberas: avoiding marital disputes over forgotten anniversaries and birthdays, picking the proper flowers to help the shy admirer woo the local librarian, making arrangements to uplift the spirits of the sick and so on. Yet despite her talent in bringing love to these people with her creations, Ruby has long closed her heart form such emotion since the death of her sister. Afraid to love because of the threat of loss. Until a boy, an astronaut and a veterinarian changes it all.

The thing is, I love that blurb. I’m a sucker for that blurb. That’s my go-to blurb when I look for a feel-good story. Unfortunately,it just went a little too overboard on the feel-good that the town of Creekside has started to read like that pretend town in The Truman Show without the random product placement and the whole awesome plot twist in the end. Everyone acquiesces to Ruby’s borderline meddling ways and every possible conflict is resolved in the most wonderfully magical manner with butterflies, glitters and a ukulele version of a Top 40 song playing in the background. 

❊ Ruby needs a dress for a date but doesn’t have the money? A client readily gives her a 25% commission for extra work. 

❊ Shopping trip to Nordstrom but has no idea what to buy? The only gay guy in Creekside is available to tag along and dole out fashion advice.

❊ Ruby technically steal-adopts a boy from a couple (with the wife in cancer remission no less)? It’s okay, the wife gets pregnant in the end anyway.

And it really wasn’t just confined to Ruby all this saccharine kindness. Everyone is just so… NICE. Too nice. Gag-inducing nice that the cynical reader in me has to wonder: Are they perpetually high? Are they all hooked to a computer in a post-apocalyptical dystopic reality where aliens are feeding off their bodies? Are they the passengers of Oceanic Flight 815 and Clementine the dog is actually Jacob? I mean, how can a small town hold so much events all year round that would require enough flowers to support Ruby’s business? For twenty years??? One has to wonder about these things! Seeing as none of these happened (SPOILER ALERT, duh), all that perfection cheats away any sympathy that I feel I should foster for these people. 

There’s a healthy amount of gardening talk going on, with everyone buying that giving someone jasmines can make them horny and snapdragons are good anger management remedies. Ruby also had a very New Age-y path to her self-rediscovery which I don’t usually go for in my contemporary reads but didn’t mind much here. I even quite liked Captain Miller’s reflections on life and death as a whole. But I felt that the relationships Ruby forged with everyone else felt superficial at best. Especially with Will. Their dynamic felt so underdeveloped that I had practically no emotional investment on what is clearly an important relationship in the story. What I felt deserved a slow and layered build up with a great deal of showing was instead reduced to a great deal of telling unfortunately.

While I did feel the message was heartfelt, though a little well-trodden, I wasn’t a big fan of the lengthy monologues and the awkwardly placed quotes from books in the conversations. There were more than a few scenes where the dialogue visibly devolves into douchey lecturing but I’d be lying if I don’t admit to being caught unaware of Lynn Branard’s way with words appealing to my sentimentality in certain moments.

we are all broken over one thing or another, how we all limp about, dragging our sorrows and troubles, our failures and disappointments, our perfect loneliness, and how it is when we suddenly open our eyes and see someone next to us dragging their own smashed bones… it seems only natural that we would want to crawl in their direction holding out our hands.

I’m not the kind of reader who complains about the lack of romance in a story but I was the reader who came into this book expecting more than what this was ready to give. I did find the epilogue quite lovely but felt it was far too little too late But I do believe I am more the exception than the rule in this case. Because while it wasn’t the story I was expecting what this served wasn’t entirely bad. And I can still imagine this being quite a touching story for someone else other than me.

Review Copy provided by the publishers. Quotes taken from an uncorrected proof.