Category: Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Flowers speak

I picked up Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s amazing debut novel, The Language of Flowers in an airport recently when I realized my Kindle was out of juice and I had a flight to catch and no book to read – a scenario frothing with doom.

My good friends at SheReads had chosen it as a recent book club pick so even without the NY Times Bestseller logo etched on its front, I knew I would likely get lost in its pages. And I did.

Part of me wanted to reach down into the fictional life of Victoria Jones, Diffenbaugh’s tragically compelling main character, and mother the living daylights out of her: Reading about neglected children – even make-believe ones – hits me at the visceral she-bear level. And then part of me wanted to slap her for making choices she didn’t have to make. I guess that means I bonded big-time with this character, which is every author’s aim and charm.

The book is is described this way on Good Reads: “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.”

It’s a book about what flowers can say when words are hard to come by.

I don’t like to give too much away when I review a book but I like how Diffenbaugh described her book in a SheReads blogpost:

“The Language of Flowers is about a young woman named Victoria Jones. The book starts on her 18th birthday, when she is “aging out” of the foster care system with nowhere to go. She quickly ends up homeless, living in a park in San Francisco. But what makes Victoria different is that she has learned to communicate through the Victorian language of flowers, where every flower is assigned a specific meaning. You might know, for example, that red roses mean love; but did you also know that rhododendron means beware? Or that mistletoe means I surmount all obstacles? So while Victoria lives very much on the outskirts of society, flowers become her way back into the world. They are her connection to her past—to the only woman who ever loved her—and to her future, when she meets a mysterious man in the flower market who speaks the language of flowers. Through floral messages and eventually through words and even relationships, she embarks on the long journey of learning to love, to trust, and to forgive.”

Love, trust, and forgive. Three virtues at the very heart of what makes us different than anything else on the planet. We love, we trust and we can forgive.

I highly recommend the book, though you will need to steel yourself. Know that the ending satisfies. I say this because to read words of heartache penned by a skilled author is sometimes more than we can bear. Hang in there. Spring arrives in all her beauty at just the right time.