“The Language of Flowers” by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers
Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Random House Publishing Group
2011, 322 pgs
Purchased Kindle

Book Summary from Goodreads

A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.

The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.

Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.

My Summary

After 11 years of being shuffled around the foster care system and another 7 years in the group home after she’s determined to be unplaceable, at 18 Victoria Jones is on her own.  Without a support system, she is given 12 weeks of room and board at a sort of half way house for foster kids.  In those twelve weeks she must find a job and start paying rent or be homeless.

Victoria doesn’t trust anyone.   The only thing she trusts is the Language of Flowers which was taught to her by one of her foster mothers.   She uses flowers to communicate and they help her get a job with Renata, who owns a flower shop and does arrangements for weddings.  Victoria discovers she can help other through the flowers she chooses for them – it’s the only piece of herself she shares.

The book flips back and forth betweenVictoria’s life in the present and her at age 10 in her last chance to be placed for adoption with a woman named Elizabeth.  The flashback segments are the perfect mix of hopeful and heartbreaking because you know that somehow it doesn’t work or Victoria’s present situation wouldn’t be what it is. 

I loved this book.  The romantic in me loves the language of flowers uncovered in this novel and a complete dictionary/translation is included at the end of the book.   All of the characters felt authentic to me. Victoria’s actions are based in two emotions – survival selfishness and feeling unworthy of other people.  There were times were I found her frustrating, but the way she responded to situations and people fit her background. 

8 out of 10 stars

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