“The Language of Flowers”, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

“The Language of Flowers” is a novel about learning how to forgive yourself and accept love from others. Told from the perspective of an 18-year-old product of the foster care system, it runs the reader through a gauntlet of emotions, including frustration, sympathy and hope.

As the book begins, Victoria is aging out of the foster care system, which means she has to figure out how to support herself now. However, the years she spent in the system have damaged her – she’s self-destructive, bitter and slightly feral. In other words, not very employable. One skill she does have is understanding the language of flowers, a concept from Victorian times that assigns a unique meaning to different types of flowers. Through this, she is able to create unique flower arrangements, which also lands her a job with a sympathetic florist.

The rest of the book follows Victoria’s journey to survive and thrive as a young adult, overcome years of rejection by foster parents and finally allow herself to love and be loved. This journey includes finding romantic love, becoming a mother, reconciling with a former foster mother and coming into her own as a successful businesswoman. Along the way, she frequently stumbles and even backtracks, but by the end she finally seems to be on a healthy path to healing.

I have mixed emotions about this book. Victoria is such a frustrating and unlikeable character at the beginning of the book that I almost gave up on reading it. But something drew me in and made me keep reading. I’m glad I stuck with it because it ultimately had a good message about healing and self acceptance. And I also came to understand there was a reason the author made Victoria so hard to like – it made the love she received from some of the other characters even more extraordinary. These other characters were able to look past Victoria’s many flaws and love her anyway. They may have been the real heroes of this story.

Thanks to Patricia for recommending this book!

“The Language of Flowers” has been out for a few years, so I’m assuming several of my blog followers have read it. What did you think? Please leave your comments below.

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5 thoughts on ““The Language of Flowers”, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

  1. This is a really helpful review – I appreciate your suggesting to stick with the story and the unpleasantness in the beginning. I’m going to give it a go!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I did read this book several years ago. Like you I found Victoria hard to like in the beginning but I too stuck with finishing the book. I loved all the flower names and descriptions and how Victoria matched them to each order she filled. This was a well rotten book as it really portrayed a young person who had many strikes against her but was able to come into her own.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I read this book last year when I was still working at CASA. I found it very realistic in its depiction of kids living in foster care and the difficulties of aging out.

    I think you’re right – Victoria is such an unlikable character in the beginning of the book, it’s hard to keep reading. But it’s very rewarding for those who don’t quit. I think the author may have intended that as a metaphor for what life is really like with these kids. It is very hard to build a relationship with them, because they are so damaged by the trauma they suffered, and even well-intentioned people are inclined to give up. But for those that persist, there is great reward. I totally agree that those who grow to love Victoria are the real heroes – just like the good foster and adoptive parents who save these kids from the system and the other caring adults who help those who have aged out. And the heroic CASA Volunteers of course! šŸ™‚

    I also loved learning more about the flowers. It was a good reminder of how nature can also help heal.

    Thanks for reminding me about this book and its important message of persistence!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I read this novel shortly after reading a story in the paper about a special program at our local university helping the foster kids who age out in all of San Diego County. I was enlightened to the struggles of these young adults to succeed in life once they reach age eighteen.

    Victoria was a tough character to like, but that’s how thick the shell around her had become and I think feral was a very appropriate description. I wasn’t aware of the Victorian language of flowers and I thought I would analyze every bouquet at every occasion after reading this book. That hasn’t happened, but I appreciate anyone having a special expertise, so Victoria had my respect for that.

    Like

  5. After my mother-in-law’s book club read this, she highly recommended it & my book club also read it. I love, love, love flowers & found the significance of various types of flowers particularly interesting. I’ve recommended this book to many others &, without exception, everyone became a fan.

    Like

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