The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh - May 2011 LTER
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I love this book. The author writes beautifully and made me care deeply about a character who seems to do nothing but wrong and hateful things. Thank you, LT and Random House, for introducing me to this author. This is her first, but I hope not her last, novel.
(fiction) Victoria Jones knows that she is unloved because she is unlovable, and she believes that she deserves to have been bounced from foster home to foster home, never wanted, never kept. Hurt them before they hurt you, hate them because they are going to hate you. She knows better than to let anyone get close.
Elizabeth, someone too much like Victoria, gives Victoria her last chance to have a real home because at age ten, Victoria will be officially “unadoptable” and will spend her days in a group home until her emancipation at eighteen. Flowers and their meanings are her only comfort. At least there is stability there. A yellow rose always means the same thing. A rose is a rose is a rose.
Beautifully written, this story is full of symbolism other than the obvious symbolism of the Victorian language of flowers. The characters became real and I wanted so much for prickly Victoria to find some happiness somewhere. Alternating between Victoria as a child and Victoria as a newly emancipated and completely unprepared adult, the story slowly reveals its secrets and the grievances that cause so much heartbreak. It will not be rushed.
“I began to imagine a sphere surrounding my heart, as hard and polished as the surface of a hazelnut, impenetrable.”
“I almost laughed, the idea was so absurd. But I knew if I laughed I would start to cry and if I started to cry, I might never stop. Instead, I piled the red carnations on the bench.”
The author, a mom and a foster mom, knows the shortcomings of our foster care system and how unprepared are the children who are expected to automatically become full-functioning adults on their eighteenth birthdays. She wants to change that, develop some safety nets for these children who drew the short stick. Her compassion and love shows through in her writing. I love this book.
Thank you to Random House and LT for giving me an advance reader's edition of this book. The quotes may have changed in the finished edition.