Reviewer Tom Pope: Tom is a writing teacher and fiction coach who strives to spark the imagination. As a teacher, he works with tutoring services to help students organize essays and understand literary elements like the point of view. As a fiction coach, he aids authors to develop characters, brainstorm conflict pacing and design worldbuilding.
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Author: Lynne Branard
ISBN-10: 0425272710: ISBN-13: 978-0425272718
Opening Up to Love Also Means Loving Your Community
Ask Lynne Branard the emphasis of her self-discovery novel, The Art of Arranging Flowers, and she’s likely to answer that the story focuses on opening oneself to love.
But love could also mean the yearning to connect with workers in a business, customers who buy a product, and others who live down the street. How do we connect, and when do we connect if that link could bring up a fear that holds us back?
Branard’s protagonist, Ruby, thrives in a florist shop as a female shaman who sends energy from specific flowers and herbs to fit every customer’s needs. Her insight into their psyche guides and draws those people to become her friends.
But Ruby’s outreach is a defense mechanism to cloak her feelings, which she thinks have been deadened since the death of her sister. Ruby’s conflict is within herself and whether or not she can blossom, like her flowers, to find a love, family or even a self respect for how she dresses.
On the other hand, any community minded person would love the type of business Ruby operates. Ruby hires a ten-year old to take care of minimal tasks even though she has no money for the wages. Ruby’s key attendant, Nora, copes as a recovering alcoholic along with Jimmy, the florist driver. The business could suffer, especially when Jimmy relapses and is lost for some crucial time when deliveries are required.
Ruby’s focus on customer needs goes beyond simple actions. She’ll drive to an event and take back flowers the planner made in error, while the loss of time sets her private life in chaos. And she mentality records key small desires from every customer to surprise them in the future.
Branard subtly hints constantly about that barrier hovering over most of our heads called fear. She shows how fear stops us from letting others know our pain or weak spots. Fear stops the employer from hiring a worker who might have a drug or mental condition. Fear prevents the employer from spending too much time with any customer because more customers requires attention elsewhere. Or the business folds.
Yet Ruby’s business decisions leave the reader smiling at how such an owner of flowers knows so much about instilling employee pride and community connectivity.
In most settings, many businesses seek to move into a community with the idea of making the most profit and simply using the neighbors as a market. Reduce costs by letting go questionable employees. Reduce costs when customers ask for too much of time — it’s an imposition.
But Branard’s laser target points out what also suffers. Pride in self and in the job.
Ruby’s ability to connect with Nora and Jimmy turn possible average workers into devoted employees and fast friends. Ruby’s time away from the shop, sitting with ten year-old Will in the cemetery, to explore the reasons people die, does more than ease his fears. She sets in motion a connection that comes back to help her in the future to deal with other fears.
But can Ruby move beyond her most terrifying fear?
Branard surrounds the psychological torment Ruby faces with the seeming ice-cream happiness of flowers. The reader sees constant images of floral patterns and feels anxiety over Ruby’s decisions or possible lost opportunities.
Yet Barnard’s theme about opening up to a love that shuts down a fear applies to both the individual and the business.
Ruby starts to blossom despite her attempt to insulate herself. Ruby’s seeds of care grows to a love for Will, the ten year-old, whom she adopts. Ruby’s acceptance of Nora and Jimmy’s alcoholism becomes answered when the workers’ loyalty saves Rudy during an accident. Their care goes beyond the care from usual employees — they treat Ruby as a family member. And Ruby’s decision to spend time helping a client by giving information about buying a new house results in a friendship that goes beyond the role of a business owner.
Ruby has opened herself to others and the community has benefited. Yet readers will ache with the quest to find whether Ruby can open herself completely to find happiness or love.
Does the adoption work out and does Ruby find a love from inside to reveal herself to a potential mate? Or does the weight of Ruby’s sister pull her away from opening up like one of her tulips? Branard’s view of love makes readers think that love operates on several levels. The person yearns and craves a connection through love. The community breathes through the same lungs, seeking similar protection from fear…and understanding.