by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Published by: Random House
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.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a stunning debut novel that will forever change the way you look at flowers. Diffenbaugh weaves a tale about love, faith, endurance and one woman’s battle to overcome her troubled past.
The story takes place in San Francisco and centers on protagonist Victoria Jones. Victoria has grown up in the foster care system and has now become emancipated. Diffenbaugh slowly peels back the petals in Victoria’s present and past life, giving us a glimpse of the dynamics that make up this complicated young woman. Told in Victoria’s voice, we see her struggle to communicate with the world around her. It is through flowers that she is able to express herself. Yellow roses mean jealousy, winter cherry signifies deception, and starwort gives welcome.
As a young adult, Victoria finds employment at a flower shop, and using the language of flowers begins to communicate with others. News of her gift, spread and soon people are coming to her for flowers. She meets a young man, who patiently tries to communicate to her through flowers. Their romance is bittersweet and will not leave the reader untouched.
As we journey through Victoria’s past, we learn how she came to communicate with flowers. When she was ten years old, she was taken into the home of Elizabeth. Victoria suffering from a life spent in a myriad of foster homes and facilities is detached, doesn’t like to be touched and trusts no one. She fully expects Elizabeth to reject her. Elizabeth opens up her home and slowly shows her the meaning of love. She teaches Victoria the language of flowers. It is through flowers that Victoria begins to communicate and forms her first bond with another human.
As the tale weaves back and forth between the past and present, answers are slowly revealed as to why Victoria is on her own and no longer with Elizabeth. The story will captivate you, as you are swept up in this heart-breaking, truthful tale. Diffenbaugh brings voice to human tragedy, our failed foster-care system and the hearts ability to endure and overcome.
I highly recommend The Language of Flowers to everyone. The novel is beautifully written and the transition from past to present is seamless. I am adding Vanessa Diffenbaugh to my list of must read authors. This novel would be perfect for a book club and an excellent gift for the reader on your list.
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