The Language of Flowers (Vanessa Diffenbaugh)
Synopsis (Goodreads): 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.
This is a book that is going to stay with me for a long time for several reasons. Victoria is an unforgettable character and we are introduced to her as she is emancipated from the foster care system at the age of 18. As the story progresses, we obtain a vivid understanding, through her eyes, of what kids suffer through both when in the foster care system – abuse, loneliness, discrimination, lack of stability, indifference, and a lack of love – and after they are ejected from it. Victoria’s journey towards redemption and happiness, despite a deep-rooted feeling that she is not deserving of love, affection, and forgiveness, and the self destructive behaviour she thus engages in, evoked such strong feelings of injustice, sadness and sympathy, it was like suffering emotional trauma at the hands of a paperback!
Elizabeth is introduced early in the story as the foster parent who introduces Victoria to the language of flowers when she is 9 or 10, and the mystery of why Victoria ends up back in the foster care system is a core thread in the storyline that kept me turning the pages long after I should have stopped reading and gone to sleep.
I didn’t know much about the language of flowers before I read this book. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the gifting and receipt of flowers in the belief that money could be better spent on something edible…chocolate, cake, dinner, coffee…(Food is definitely my favourite F-word!) But I digress…the author does a wonderful job of weaving the meaning of flowers through the story, and the full dictionary of flowers at the end of the book was fascinating. Who would have thought that Dogwood represents love undiminished by adversity, Eucalyptus indicates protection, Pineapple perfection and Sunflowers false riches? I’ve discovered a whole new appreciation for floral arrangements and bouquets!
So…definitely worth those 5 stars because the writing was beautiful, the characters were compelling and memorable, AND I learnt something new! I’ll be re-reading this one for sure, and unquestionably when I am next inclined to buy flowers for someone.