Rating: 4.5 / 5
Victoria has been in the foster care system her whole life, shuttled from one family to another for a variety of reasons. On her 18th birthday, she is emancipated from the system, and finds herself homeless in San Francisco’s McKinley Square. By chance, she begins working off the books for Renata at her flower shop. Victoria has a keen understanding of flowers, learning how to care for them, tell them apart, and their meanings from Elizabeth, the foster mother who was on the verge of adopting her. Now on her own, she must figure out not only how to survive, but when she meets up with someone from her past, whether she can let go of her past and live in the present.
The Language of Flowers is a beautifully written and moving story. Having been dealt a tumultuous childhood with no stability, safety, or love, Victoria has trouble dealing with anger and sadness. She doesn’t form bonds with people since everyone she has tried to get close to has abandoned her. Victoria is sharp and smart, but, lacking a nurturing home environment. she is seen as belligerent, moody, and quiet; the reality is that she has not been taught conventional social norms and manners. Since she has trouble verbally communicating with people, she relies on the meanings of flowers to convey her message. It is through this skill that she is successful working at Renata’s, and becomes sought after in her own right.
The Language of Flowers moves between Victoria current day, and Victoria in the past, moving among various foster homes. Even though this is not a thriller, it was still suspenseful and a page turner. It seemed that Victoria found a permanent home with Elizabeth, who was everything all other foster parents weren’t to Victoria. But Victoria continually alludes to the fact that she has not been in contact with Elizabeth for years, so the reader is left wondering what happened between the them.
This was a well written novel from a debut novelist. Although sad and heartbreaking, The Language of Flowers is full of hope and displays the power of forgiveness- I can’t wait to read Diffenbaugh’s next novel.