Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Production Description:

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (August 23, 2011)
  • Pages:  465
  • Genre:  Fiction/Contemporary Fiction


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.

My Review:

I received this book from LibraryThing as an early review.  I was intrigued by the synopsis, but wasn’t sure what to expect.  Have you ever heard the quote, “don’t judge a book by it’s cover”?  Well, this could not be any more true as it is for this book.  From the first pages, I was drawn into the Victoria’s world and couldn’t put the book down.

Victoria has grown up in the foster care system and is emancipated on her 18th birthday.  Leaving the group home behind, she not only learns how to survive on her own, but also learns that she is capable of loving and being loved.  Readers may find Victoria is too aloof, irresponsible at times, lacking affection, and mistrusting of others.  However, Victoria is a young adult that was abandoned as an infant without information on her name and birth information.  She grows up in a foster care system, where she is moved from home to home, with foster parents that aren’t always loving.  Even though the author never describes Victoria as having Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), as a therapist, I did see some of the characteristics as Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Seeing Victoria in this way helped me be more sympathetic to her and understand her point of view a little more clearly.

Vanessa Diffenbaugh brings awareness into some of the issues that currently exist in the foster care system.  Because I have worked as a youth counselor in a shelter for homeless teens, I know that children do experience the abuse and neglect Victoria experiences.  However, I also know that there is good that can come out of a broken system and that there are people who do connect and love their foster children.  Vanessa also shows that side of foster parents through Elizabeth’s character.  Victoria painfully recalls her memories of being a foster child with Elizabeth and it is only through forgiveness and embracing herself that Victoria can truly move forward and accept all the good things in her life.

Elizabeth teaches Victoria the meaning of flowers and how in the Victorian era people would give each other a flower based on its meaning.  Victoria loves flowers and uses them to convey her emotions, which also leads to a job in a floral shop.  Soon, customers are coming in to request flowers based on the message they would like to give to the recipient.  Even though the customers are minor characters, it was interesting to read how their relationships evolved through “the language of flowers”.  Reading about the meaning of flowers gave me a different perspective on the kinds of flowers I enjoyed.  Vanessa provides a dictionary in the back of her book with the names of flowers and their meaning, which I absolutely loved!

After I read this book, a Christian song came to mind.  Below is the video, titled You Are More by Tenth Avenue North.

I HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone interested in foster care/adoption stories (although this is fiction), relationships, and second chances.  It is a wonderful book that I am sure you will love!

*This book was provided as an Advanced Reader Copy by LibraryThing, in exchange for an honest opinion.  This book will be available for purchase on August 23, 2011.

8 thoughts on “Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

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