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February 22, 2016

The Language of Flowers

The Language of FLowersThe Language of Flowers

By Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The foster care system has been hard on Victoria Jones, and has left her with a number of reasons to mistrust people and build up walls to keep them at bay. Victoria has cycled through the foster care systems, living with various families and going in and out of group homes. Her social worker is the only constant presence in her life, and places her with Elizabeth, a single woman, who gives Victoria some of the first, and only, stability she’s ever encountered.

Life with Elizabeth proves to be initially difficult for Victoria, as she is unaccustomed to living with a caring adult who is also an advocate. Under Elizabeth’s unwavering support, Victoria begins to blossom, learning about a number of new skills – most importantly, that of the language of flowers that Elizabeth utilizes to try to communicate with her estranged sister. Victoria and Elizabeth build a family together, until a tragic turn of events results in Victoria once again without a home or a family of her own.

Now, at the age of 18, Victoria has “aged out” of the foster care system and is left on her own. With little education and no trust in others, Victoria lives a vagrant lifestyle until she is taken under the wing of a local florist and begins to construct beautiful and meaningful bouquets of flowers that transform the lives of the people for whom she creates them.  While working in this role, she also has an unexpected encounter with a mysterious man who, as it turns out, knows her better than she could guess, and holds the keys to her future.

This story was both heart-wrenching and fascinating for me to read. Diffenbaugh created characters who were deeply flawed and difficult to trust; yet, it was almost impossible not to feel sympathy for them. Each had deep wounds that readers could only hope to understand, and the story was better because of those.

However, what I found more compelling than the characters was the actual exploration of the meaning of flowers, and how they were/are used to convey feelings. It seemed appropriate that Victoria used flowers to create beautiful expressions, when she herself was so challenged to express emotions that left her vulnerable. It was great fun to learn about the meaning of some common flowers – and, as a side note, we have multiple flower dictionaries at the library if anyone is interested in learning more!

If you enjoy this book, the Fiction Fans book club will be meeting on March 10th at 7pm in the library to discuss Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s most recent book, We Never Asked for Wings.

Review By: Jessica Diehl