To think that flowers could convey such meaning to the person who gives and the one who receives them. In Diffenbaugh’s debut novel, flora have a language all on their own—which can bring messages of good tidings or give warnings and insults (no matter how beautiful the flowers/plants look).
With the backdrop of San Francisco, we are introduced to Victoria, who is leaving her foster care life behind for good. She is on the cusp of becoming an adult but has had a very troubled childhood. As there is no place to go and no way to make a living, she relies on the skills she has learned from a foster mother (named Elizabeth) to help her get a job at a florist shop. The owner of the shop, Renata, sees how good Victoria is with matching clients to the right flowers (even getting customers who come back asking for her services), that she is given the opportunity to stay on as paid help during the busiest times of the year. Victoria is also given more than the required salary and offered a place to live.
Struggling to become someone with a purpose, she constantly thinks back to her years of suffering in the homes that didn’t want her and the grave mistake she had committed, which separates her from Elizabeth forever. In the mean time, she must also deal with the strong feelings she has for Grant, who works at the town market selling flowers and has a connection to Elizabeth too.
We see Victoria go through a change emotionally but also physically, as we realize how serious her relationship with Grant is formed. She is confused and continues to hurt when thinking back about almost becoming the beloved adopted daughter of Elizabeth. We feel her pain when she recalls the moment she is ripped away from her foster mother by Meredith Combs, who is the social worker, telling her that she will never amount to anything and no one will ever love her. The guilt that Victoria feels and the urge she has to make things right again with Elizabeth makes us sympathize with her.
After so much heartache, we know she deserves Grant’s love and the right to have a proper family at last. To accompany her on this fragile adventure is worthwhile, as we are reminded that wrongs can be righted and forgiveness is always within reach. Happiness can grow from a spoiled seed and bloom into a beautiful outlook on life. No one knows this better than Victoria, which is why she decides to tell us her story.
I really enjoyed the book and would look forward to other works by Diffenbaugh. What were your impressions?
To read reviews on The Language of Flowers, please click on the links below.
From The New York Times:
For information about Vanessa Diffenbaugh, click below:
Here are some questions that you may want to answer:
-What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has a hard time seeing in herself?
-While Victoria has been hungry and malnourished often in her life, food ends up meaning more than just nourishment to her. Why?
For more questions, please click on the link below that will bring you to the Lit Lovers website:
Did you know that nearly 30,000 youth are turned out of their foster homes every year, when they become of age? It is said that about 25% of these 18 year-olds become homeless by the time they reach twenty. 60% end up having children of their own within four years and sadly, these babies are often put in foster care as well—which continues the vicious cycle. There truly are too many children in foster homes, but there are ways to help the young adults grow up with positive support. The author has co-founded an organization called The Camellia Network, which focuses on keeping kids on the right path through education and programs that will help them get ready for the real world. For information about foster care facts and figures, please visit the site:
This book reminded me of …
As always, I think about other books that strike me when I read a certain part of a story. In this case, the novel reminded me of four different titles for various reasons. The first was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because of how the main character (Lisbeth) reminds me a bit of Victoria’s predicament of being in foster care settings all her life. The second is The Imposter Bride, because there is the issue of mother-daughter relationships being broken in both stories. The third is The Good Daughters, because the setting of the country is very predominant in both books. Finally, I thought a bit about Chocolat, since Vianne helps a community of troubled people in a small town—just as Victoria has the knack to help her customers with their relationships through the language of flowers.
Favorite quote from book:
“In a life of trespasses, many violent and most undeserved, I regretted only the fire. A collection of jam jars, a fistful of matches, and an absence of judgment had created an inferno that blazed well past the extinguishing of the final flame. It burnt forth into the lie that had taken me away from Elizabeth, ignited fights throughout eight years of institutional placements, and smoldered in my mistrust of Grant. I had refused to believe that he loved me, or that he would continue to love me if he knew the truth.” (p. 271)
Most revealing moment in the story:
We all want to know what Victoria did to Elizabeth that makes her think she should be put in the Hall of Shame. When we find out what Victoria does because of the jealousy she feels towards Elizabeth’s sister (Catherine), it is heartbreaking. (p. 251-252)
Next month’s title:
Web of Angels by Lilian Nattel