The Art of Arranging Flowers
Ruby Jewell knows flowers. In her twenty years as a florist she has stood behind the counter at the Flower Shoppe with her faithful dog, Clementine, resting at her feet. A customer can walk in, and with just a glance or a few words, Ruby can throw together the perfect arrangement for any occasion.
Whether intended to rekindle a romance, mark a celebration, offer sympathy, or heal a broken heart, her expressive floral designs mark the moments and milestones in the lives of her neighbors. It’s as though she knows just what they want to say, just what they need.
Yet Ruby’s own heart’s desires have gone ignored since the death of her beloved sister. It will take an invitation from a man who’s flown to the moon, the arrival of a unique little boy, and concern from a charming veterinarian to reawaken her wounded spirit. Any life can be derailed, but the healing power of community can put it right again.
READERS GUIDE INSIDE
Praise For The Art of Arranging Flowers…
“I devoured this book...There is art and beauty in this story that will linger after the final scene.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Rose in Bloom and Starry Night
“An expertly penned and tender tale about the blossoming of hearts amidst the storms of loss and grief.”—Richard Paul Evans, #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling
“Captured my heart on the first page…A beautiful novel filled with tender wisdom and unforgettable characters who understand love, loss, and the alchemy of just the right flowers.”—Luanne Rice, New York Times bestselling author of The Lemon Orchard
“Branard is a masterful storyteller who understands the human heart and all its trials, tribulations, and joys…A pure delight to read.”—Darien Gee, international bestselling author of The Avalon Ladies Scrapbooking Society
“Ruby Jewell is an enormously compelling character…I felt genuinely protective of her…[This] is a rare blossom of a book, delicate and lovely, that will stay fresh in my memory for a long time to come.”—Marie Bostwick, author of Between Heaven and Texas
Berkley, 9780425272718, 320pp.
Publication Date: June 3, 2014
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
Regarding missing a flower delivery, Lucy says “that’s just a mistake
that cannot be forgiven.” Why do flowers symbolize something
so paramount that missing a delivery would be a disaster?
What crucial roles do flowers play in relationships—
Ruby makes it clear that she has never been in a serious romantic
relationship, though we hear undeniably erotic descriptions of
plants as “stems of short, curved, tender blades,” and “white with
little narrow lips of purple.” Do you think Ruby expresses her sensuality
through her trade? Do you think her passion for flowers is
a stand-in for other longings?
Nora and Jimmy are both alcoholics, and their relationship is
rooted in the recovery process. How do Ruby and Dan forge a
similar (platonic) bond, and what fuels that bond?
Jimmy tells Ruby that she has a reputation for “fixing hearts.”
And much later, Nora echoes that the whole town has expressed
that sentiment. In “fixing” others’ hearts, how might Ruby
have neglected her own? Can empathy overextend into self-
Dan says that “When I was in space and saw the stars . . . I felt as
if I were seeing something of myself . . . I felt as if I were somehow
connected to these great beings.” Have you ever felt that kind of
ineffable connection that Dan describes? Was it with a person, or
a place, or a thing—
Will says, “Sometimes I worry that everybody I love will die.”
Many of the characters are either at death’s door or have suffered
the tragic loss of a loved one. How do they find ways not to live
in the constant fear that Will expresses?
What is the symbolic significance of Clementine’s encounter with
the porcupine and Ruby’s interference—
How is that a watershed moment in Ruby’s life?
Ruby’s and Will’s lives are both wrought with tragedy. In the prologue,
Ruby quotes Hemingway’s famous assertion that we become
“strong in the broken places.” How is this both true and false?
How do Will and Ruby reflect the truth in this, and where do they
find their strength, or solace?
The title points to how serious and sacred a flower arrangement
can in fact be. Do you think Ruby’s flower arrangements function
as characters in the novel? If so, at what crucial moments do they
bring other characters together, and in what significant events do
they play a part?
Barring the prologue and epilogue, the story begins and ends on
Stan and Viola Marcus’s anniversary. Ruby always has the same
exchange with Stan: She remembers his anniversary, and he leaves
her shop after stating that he is “the lucky one.” Why did the author choose to bookend the novel in this way? How is Stan’s
relationship with his wife emblematic of what marriage means?
Were you surprised that Ruby changed her mind and decided to
adopt Will? Did you think it was a wise or unwise choice? How
might the story have been vastly different if Jenny and Justin had
Why do you think the author chose to include an epilogue on the
day of Ruby’s death? What role does death play in the book that
makes it a fitting ending?
During the conversation with Dan about whether or not Ruby will
adopt Will, Dan explains the mechanics of how flowers bloom. “It
turns out that the instabilities that shape roots and blossoms often
come about when certain cells become longer than others. The
rapid growth causes strain, which bends the soft tissues. . . .” What
is he really telling Ruby? How does the “biology of blooming”
manifest itself in her life?
Ruby is near paralyzed by her sister Daisy’s death, until she finds
herself “pulled out of bed” at the sight of the flora just outside the
window. How does the art of arranging flowers take the place of
Daisy in Ruby’s life? How might Ruby’s life have been different if
her sister had not died?
The Greeks had four words for love: eros, agape, philia, and storge
(in short: romantic love, spiritual love, friendship, and familial
love). How do we see these different types of love manifested in