Title: The Language of Flowers
Author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Narrator: Tara Sands
Audiobook Length: 10 hours, 50 minutes
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books):
“The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.”
Thoughts: If you are like me, I tend to start new books feeling decidedly torn. On the one hand, the possibility that it will be a book for the ages is a seduction all on its own. On the other hand, there is always the fear of harboring too high expectations because so many books fail to live up to them. The Language of Flowers is one of those rare books that not only is a book for the ages, it more than lives up to any and all high expectations. Miss Diffenbaugh’s story of a young woman, one who has made her way through the foster system and is now trying to survive on her own, is simple and yet completely poignant and heartbreaking. Victoria, while gruff, burrows her way into the reader’s heart, and her story is one that lingers well after the final word of the final sentence.
The Language of Flowers is simply beautiful. Victoria is a heroine that, while rough around the edges, has a vulnerability that breaks a reader’s heart. This isn’t just an expose on the pitfalls of the foster system and the damage it causes on those stuck in the system. It is a reminder of what it means to care enough to be willing to take all the risks involved in a relationship without a guarantee of any rewards. It is learning to love and learning that letting go can be the most loving thing one can do.
As with the language of flowers itself, love can and does take many forms, and Miss Diffenbaugh explores them all. While this may seem overwhelming, it is done surreptitiously and graciously. It is never patronizing, and readers of all genders will find some part of Victoria that will strike a chord.
I adore the idea of secret messages in flowers. The modern era has lost the humanizing touch that such nuances like giving flowers with meaning or hand-written notes the Victorian age held dear. Ms. Diffenbaugh brings back the importance of caring enough to take the time to work on relationships. If even the most diffident woman, one who has been taught that any emotion is dangerous, can find happiness through such “archaic” traditions, then maybe they are worth reconsidering after all.
Tara Sands is a perfect narrator for this story. Not only is her voice young enough for the character, she excels at portraying the world-weariness and suspicion, not to mention the heartache and longing, that is Victoria. It is as realistic a vocalization as one can experience, making the entire audiobook pure auditory pleasure.
The Language of Flowers is one of those touching stories that has so much going for it – great characters, a wonderful story arc, the rediscovery of a long-lost art form, and a greater understanding of the subtle dangers of the foster system. It makes the reader reconsider the meaning of love in any form. Better yet, it is one of those stories that the reader immediately wants to start rereading after finishing to experience the magic again and again.
Acknowledgements: Mine. All mine.