The Language of Flowers
by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publish Date: August 23, 2011
Format: Hardcover | 336 pages
Rating: 4½ of 5
Victoria Jones has spent most of her life in the foster care system. Today is her 18th birthday; she has aged out of the system and is now emancipated. Victoria wants nothing more than to leave the group home she is living in, never to return.
Through her social worker, Meridith, Victoria is given some money, a place to live and instructions to find a job. Instead of finding work, she spends her days in the park where she plants and cares for flowers. Flowers are what give her peace and she feels a special relationship with them. Within a few months she is kicked out of her new home for she has no job and no money with which to pay the bills.
Victoria is now living in the public park. Days turn into weeks and she is hungry and getting desperate. When she asks a local florist to give her a job she is surprised the woman is willing to take a chance on her and says yes. But Victoria has a gift, she understands the language of flowers which she learned in one of her foster homes, and the florist is impressed with her abilities. Things begin to go well for her, customers adore her and business is booming. But when Victoria encounters a mysterious stranger at the flower market, someone familiar, she knows she must face up to her past.
The book alternates between the present and a period about 10 years ago when Victoria was placed in a foster home under the care of Elizabeth, who wanted to adopt her. By all accounts Victoria seems happy. But the adoption never happened; something went wrong.
Victoria is a flawed and dysfunctional character but so very likable. Many of the things she does don’t make sense on the surface but when viewed through the prism of someone who feels unloved and unwanted, they become more understandable. That she has a painful secret in her past only made me want even more for her to succeed and to be happy. There was one point where she does something so outrageous and so irresponsible that I became disappointed in her. (No spoilers, but if you read the book, you will know). After what she did, the ending tied things up a little too neatly and that was the only thing that kept me from a 5-star rating because I truly loved this book.
I could relate to the flowers providing peace and happiness for Victoria. As an avid gardener I spend many hours with my flowers. In fact, I’m sitting in the garden surrounded by beautiful flower as I write this. Daisies, begonia, hibiscus, petunia, verbena, cone flower, rudbeckia, and too many more to name bloom around me. The Dictionary of Flowers included in the back of the book was a delight. I never knew flowers had a meaning and now I’m looking them up before I give them to anyone.
This is a wonderful book, at times painful and heartbreaking and at others redemptive and joyful. It shines a light on the foster care system and the toll it can take on the children living within it and the people who try to help them. The flowers bring bursts of happiness as Victoria is able to help others and bring joy to their lives. Highly recommended.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.
Reviewed on my book blog, Under My Apple Tree.
Read Full Post »