Vanessa Diffenbaugh | Fiction 2011
I often read a book with a desire to move through it, to soak it up, and move on to the next interesting tale. But this book, The Language of Flowers, I wanted to savor. The writing, the story, and the exploration of flowers and their meanings all created a delicacy to enjoy slowly.
Victoria is a foster child, experiencing the worst of the foster system, traveling from a group home to a private home to a group home over and over. Then, at age eight she meets a possible new mother, Elizabeth. Theirs is a fast and deep bond. But the fates work against this relationship. While at its apex, Victoria learns from Elizabeth all about flowers – how to tend, harvest, and arrange them, and above all, the meaning of each flower. She is a fast learner and this learning is the most fulfillment she has experienced in her young life.
But circumstances interfere and Victoria leaves Elizabeth’s house to finish out her final youthful years in a group home until she is “emancipated” on her 18th birthday. With no skills and no family, Victoria becomes homeless, until Renata, a florist, discovers how brilliant Victoria is with flowers. Of course, Victoria has no reason to trust anyone. She doesn’t even know what trust is, much less love.
The book follows two journeys, one when Victoria is eight and living with Elizabeth, and the other when she is 18 and out on her own. And flowers and their meaning are at the center of both journeys.
This is a beautiful book, another debut novel. It is finely crafted and hard to put down, even though it wants to be relished. I highly recommend it.