03 Mar The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
To think that flowers could convey such meaning to the person who gives and the one who receives them.
In Diffenbaugh’s debut novel, flora have a language all on their own—which can bring messages of good tidings or give warnings and insults (no matter how beautiful the flowers/plants look).
With the backdrop of San Francisco, we are introduced to Victoria, who is leaving her foster care life behind for good. She is on the cusp of becoming an adult but has had a very troubled childhood. As there is no place to go and no way to make a living, she relies on the skills she has learned from a foster mother (named Elizabeth) to help her get a job at a florist shop. The owner of the shop, Renata, sees how good Victoria is with matching clients to the right flowers (even getting customers who come back asking for her services), that she is given the opportunity to stay on as paid help during the busiest times of the year. Victoria is also given more than the required salary and offered a place to live.
Struggling to become someone with a purpose, she constantly thinks back to her years of suffering in the homes that didn’t want her and the grave mistake she had committed, which separates her from Elizabeth forever.
In the mean time, she must also deal with the strong feelings she has for Grant, who works at the town market selling flowers and has a connection to Elizabeth too.
We see Victoria go through a change emotionally but also physically, as we realize how serious her relationship with Grant has formed. She is confused and continues to hurt when thinking back about almost becoming the beloved adopted daughter of Elizabeth. We feel her pain when she recalls the moment she is ripped away from her foster mother by Meredith Combs, who is the social worker, telling her that she will never amount to anything and no one will ever love her. The guilt that Victoria feels and the urge she has to make things right again with Elizabeth, makes us sympathize with her.
After so much heartache, we know she deserves Grant’s love and the right to have a proper family at last.
To accompany her on this fragile adventure is worthwhile, as we are reminded that wrongs can be righted and forgiveness is always within reach.
Happiness can grow from a spoiled seed and bloom into a beautiful outlook on life. No one knows this better than Victoria, which is why she decides to tell us her story.
As always, I think about other books that strike me when I read a certain part of a story. In this case, the novel reminded me of four different titles for various reasons. The first was The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, because of how the main character (Lisbeth) reminds me a bit of Victoria’s predicament of being in foster care settings all her life. The second is The Imposter Bride, because there is the issue of mother-daughter relationships being broken in both stories. The third is The Good Daughters, because the setting of the country is very predominant in both books. Finally, I thought a bit about Chocolat, since Vianne helps a community of troubled people in a small town—just as Victoria has the knack to help her customers with their relationships through the language of flowers.
I really enjoyed the book and would look forward to other works by Diffenbaugh. What were your impressions?
Next month, I will be talking about Lisa Genova’s book called, Love Anthony. Stay tuned!