Review of The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

A Haunting, Redemptive Novel

This gorgeous, well-crafted, tender book is a gift of the heart. Victoria Jones, the prickly protagonist, has just turned eighteen and aged out of the foster-care system. She trusts no one and has no plan, so she sleeps in the Golden Gate Park with her few possessions. Gradually her life moves forward as she is befriended by a flower-shop owner who notices and values Victoria’s knowledge of the language of flowers and her gift for arranging those flowers.

At the same time, Victoria’s past is not gone. We learn slowly about what happened when she was 10, when a woman seriously tried to nurture and adopt her. Those events and misunderstandings form a tragic backdrop to her life, and Victoria is convinced she could never be forgiven and never connect to others with normal love and respect.

Slowly this uncertain life unfolds.

Diffenbaugh’s descriptions of the girl’s loneliness and lack of connection are deep and ring true (the author has fostered several children and bases her writing on those experiences plus her research). We can’t help empathizing with Victoria—because don’t we all have that mistrust somewhere inside us? Especially those of us who were abused in one way or another early in life, we resonate with the paralyzing fear that can keep us from giving our hearts in love.

I’ve been haunted by The Language of Flowers ever since I read it a couple of months ago. I recommend it to all my friends. The slow, imperfect, but deep redemption that develops is healing to read about and warming to hold in our hearts.