Passed from foster home to foster home her entire life, eighteen year old Victoria finds it difficult to connect with people. As a coping mechanism, she uses the Victorian language of flowers to tell people how she really feels about them while keeping them at a distance. But one day she meets a young man who speaks her secret language, forcing her to confront a past she is keen to forget.
As Victoria makes bouquets that fix her clients lives and gain her a cult following, she struggles with feelings of inadequacy, a legacy of the repeated rejection she experienced as a small child. In Victoria, Diffenbaugh has created a heroine who is vulnerable without being Dickensian, so though the novel highlights the plight of children growing up in care and young adults leaving the system, it never feels excessively like a sermon. Many of the minor characters are similarly engaging and well outlined, though at times, customers in the shop and other cast members felt a little like devices for advancing the plot.
The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh reads like a hybrid of White Oleander and Like Water for Chocolate- A young woman shaped by her life in the system, and a young woman who has grown up without expresses her feelings by making things which physically or mentally affect others. This isn’t to say that this is derivative, I don’t think it is, but if you liked either of these, you may well enjoy reading this title.
This is a nice gentle read, and the story is pretty engaging. It also comes with a handy dictionary of flower meanings at the back of the book, so if you want to fill your house or garden with secret messages, it’s a handy starting point.
You might be interested to know that Vanessa Diffenbaugh has founded The Camellia Network to support young people aging out of foster care. The meaning of camellia in the language of flowers? My destiny is in your hands.