The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
This story shows the complexity and brokenness of human nature through the eyes of a young girl. Victoria was abandoned at birth by her mother. She never knew her mother or her father. Jerked from foster care to foster care, she understandably lacks stability, love and self-esteem.
Year after year her insecurity and hesitancy to attach to any human being grows. Any human touch causes Victoria nausea and potential vomiting. Until she meets Elizabeth at age 10. Elizabeth is a vineyard owner and becomes her temporary guardian. This home is finally where Victoria begins to feel what real love might feel like.
I realize the book is not categorized as inspirational/religious, but I saw unconditional love played out in the part of Elizabeth. Elizabeth told Victoria repeatedly that there was nothing she could do to cause her to give her up or to not love her. Victoria still tries the limits of this love on more than one occasion. Yet Elizabeth never withdraws her love or gives up on winning her back again. Just like God never gives up on us no matter how many times we mess up. He’s always willing to take us back under his wing of protection.
Then came the fire, hospitalization for Victoria, and Elizabeth disappeared from Victoria’s life. Unfortunately, she’s left with no choice, so it’s back into the flawed foster child system where she stays until she becomes emancipated from a group home.
A form of redemption came into Victoria’s life when she met Renata, owner of Bloom flower shop. Renata hires Victoria to work for her at the flower shop. Renata seems to understand Victoria’s complexity and need for her own space. Victoria begins to bloom and blossom as she creates arrangements according to the client’s needs — almost to a magical point. Client’s personal relationships improved according to the flowers Victoria’s arranged and delivered. Hence, the flower shop prospered and Victoria matures.
The author goes into great detail about plants and flowers describing their unique meanings. I looked forward to learning, along with Victoria, the history and thinking behind each flower and grew to love flowers even more as I read the story. “The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude.”
The main character, Victoria, deals with deep-rooted woundedness and unresolved self-esteem issues her entire life. She resists anyone who tries to get close to her emotionally or physically by acting out in uncivil ways. As a reader, I personally felt the pain of the underdog, the unwanted, unloved and pushed aside in society. I wanted to reach out and adopt Victoria myself!
The Language of Flowers deals with complex human nature and social issues. I found the book to be very intriguing and swept me right along from start to finish.