Flowers and their victorian hidden meaning play a central role in Victoria Jone’s life. The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh follows Victoria as she ages out of the foster care system. We see how little the 18 year old is prepared to live on her own after spending a lifetime of moving from foster home to foster home and then care facility to care facility. She’s as prickly as a cactus yet uses beautiful flowers to communicate her hatred of those around her. After finding a florist who trusts her enough to let her work her flower magic, her current life falls into a routine but she is confronted with her past at the flower stalls.
Through flashbacks we learn that once there was hope in her life and she had a chance for a real family with one of her foster moms, Elizabeth. Diffenbaugh only gives us little snippets of the story and dangles her secret past to tempt us to keep reading. The idea of family and forgiveness is central to this story as more than one family is ripped apart by anger, jealousy, and guilt. As Victoria learns that the language of flowers is not definite, we learn the the definition of family is fluid as well.
I don’t want to reveal too much of the story, but there is so much heartbreak and hope in this story. Romantic love, filial love, and mother’s love are all things that Victoria believes are out of her reach. Throughout this beautiful story she learns that she has the chance for hope and love. Its not a standard love story, but love is at the center. Diffenbaugh writes with the characters raw emotions on the page so don’t read this without a tissue handy.
There were some story points that I thought could have been worked through a little more, like Victoria’s birth story and her relationship with the foster system. Both of those really shaped who she is, and I would have liked to see a little more back story or social commentary on how she ended up where she was. Overall though, this was a good story and Victoria refuses to be defined by her past and works to make her future and other girls with her similar upbringing better in a nonconventional way.
Read April 2014