Monday, September 7, 2015

THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS – VANESSA DIFFENBAUGH

Years ago a friend gave me a beautiful little book about the meanings of flowers and the messages that can be conveyed through the use of them in bouquets. I enjoyed it and still have it. I like to lay it on the coffee table in the spring. What a pleasure to encounter that idea in a contemporary book. The Language of Flowers is a heart wrenching story about a troubled young and homeless woman who has a flair for arranging flower by their color and meaning.

Victoria is a very confused and angry young woman. She is emancipated from her group home on the day she turns 18 after having spent her life bouncing from foster homes (at least 32) and group homes. In only one foster home had Victoria been loved and made to feel special. In that home her foster mother, Elizabeth taught her the language of flowers. But Elizabeth's family had its own problems and Victoria ended up being deeply hurt. After that she never found a place again to fit in or to feel loved. Now, at 18 she has no place to go and no one who cares and so lives in a public park in San Francisco sleeping in the bushes. Victoria is actually very bright though. She makes her own tiny garden in the park with plants she pilfers and nurtures. Renata, a florist, finally notices her and asks her to help her out. Victoria ends up landing a job at the florist shop where she gets to display her genius with flowers. She also researches and begins to create her own flower dictionary. Renata rents her a tiny apartment and Victoria becomes respected and loved. And yet, she cannot make it work.

When Victoria meets Grant, a flower farm supplier for the local florists, and who is also painfully shy it seems she may make it and have a true family. But just like a train wreck that you can't look away from, with doom the reader watches as Victoria struggles.

Those of us who have worked with youth have seen this attachment disorder before and it is a heartbreaking mystery. Victoria is self destructive. She does not understand herself or her desires, let alone other people. Every relationship she fosters she eventually destroys. After building a clientele, living clean, and creating a home for herself she methodically proceeds to destroy it and hurt everyone who helped her. The saddest thing is that she doesn't even understand why she does what she does and cannot seem to stop herself.

I don't know if all the editions had them but my book had both a Victorian flower dictionary included and a representation of the one created in the book by Victoria.


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