The Language Of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is one of the most beautifully written and touching stories I have read in a very long time. The characters are complex and I found that I both loved and despised the behavior of the main character, Victoria Jones. My heart ached for her, abandoned at birth, growing up in the foster care system, never knowing love, never knowing what its like to be cared for without assuming an ulterior motive and acting out in the most hateful and violent ways in an attempt to protect herself.
Victoria Jones, who was abandoned at birth by her mother and has lived in at least 32 foster homes by the time she turns 18.In a schematic book that cross-cuts much too neatly between two time periods, Victoria is seen as a 9-year-old who hopes to be adopted by a woman named Elizabeth (who runs a vineyard) and an emancipated adult who becomes involved with Elizabeth’s estranged nephew, Grant (who runs a flower farm).
The 9-year-old Victoria already shows signs of extreme aloofness. She is suspicious and angry. She hates to be touched. And the 18-year-old Victoria is, if anything, even more self-protective and distant. She has left the group home she hated and wound up on the streets of San Francisco. Sometimes she sleeps outdoors. Why? What happened between her and Elizabeth? If the two of them stayed together for a full year, Elizabeth could have adopted Victoria legally. But something seems to have gone terribly, horribly, dreadfully wrong.
I loved how the author used adoption, foster homes, emancipation, homelessness, single motherhood & as talking points in this book and I found myself drawn into the beautiful and almost sensual descriptions that the author used to describe flowers and their meanings.
Something about this lost girls struggle with motherhood really touched a nerve for me, different stories but such similar struggles with maternal instinct and feelings of being good enough to raise a precious, innocent life. A struggle between the all consuming mothers love and self love or maintaining a balance of maternal love and a sense of self.
There is a passage at the end of the book that brought tears to my eyes. Moss, according the Victorian language of flowers, symbolizes maternal love and the author so rightly points out that the true beauty of moss is not only it’s symbolism of maternal love but that moss grows without roots. While I identified with Victoria’s struggle to be a mother, this simple little passage reminded me that no matter how we become to be mothers, we all have it in us to give maternal love, there does not need to be a foundation of pregnancy or birth, that we can be mothers without out root system, that our maternal love can grow and transform without the all important nourishment provided by a root system.
The book ends with a complete dictionary of flower languages and I feel in love with this little flower:
Cinquefoil – which is symbolic of a beloved daughter. What this space, I’m definitely planning to do something with this pretty little flower to forever remind me of my most precious gift.
The Language of Flowers is a book worth reading, it was a look into the life of a troubled woman, it is hauntingly beautiful, happy and so very very sad but all the way through you’re rooting for Victoria to over come, to break free of the chains of her past and to truly start living her life.