Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel The Language of Flowers is the best fiction I’ve read this year. So good that I didn’t want to stop reading it, I’d tell myself just one more chapter and then get upset because I didn’t want to leave her character, Victoria, without finding out what happened next. From the opening chapter, Victoria’s story grabbed me emotionally. The beauty and the tragic realness of her character, the way she interacted with the people in her life, her heartbreaking hopefulness and self-sabotaging behavior kept me wishing that someone would see below the surface and bring healing to her wounded soul.
Victoria Jones is 18 and aging out of foster care in San Francisco. She is angry and hurting from being raised in the system. She has gone from house to house and group home to group home where her need for love and family were not met. At 10 she finds her best chance at adoption with Elizabeth, a woman who lives alone on a vineyard. She teaches Victoria about grapes and the names and meanings of flowers. It is the meaning of flowers that Victoria grabs onto and this language from the Victorian era helps her navigate through life.
I read this advanced readers copy through the Amazon vine program and can’t wait until it comes out in August 2011 so that I can buy copies. It’s a perfect gift, because it appeals to so many people: anyone who loves children, those who care about what’s happening to our marginalized kids, social workers, foster parents, mental health advocates, or gardeners, lovers of flowers, florists, wedding planners, midwifes and young adults. The list is long but there are probably more types of readers who would like this story. 5 stars, wish I could give it more.