The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is an emotional story about a troubled eighteen year old girl emancipated from the foster care system and her search for family and forgiveness. Most participants liked it, even though we criticized several key plot points as unrealistic or overly convenient. The novel’s major themes and images are the power of forgiveness and the inability to forgive, the importance of family, the destructive power of fire, and of course, flowers.
Rather than creating a realistic world through physical descriptions, Diffenbaugh chose to emphasize emotion and feeling. As the author’s first novel, it felt fluid and mostly successful. We discussed several subjects, including:
- Victoria, the main character; impulsive, intense, we didn’t like her – but did feel sorry for her.
- The language of flowers: using it today is like reading a fortune cookie, superstitious but fun. For Victoria, it offers her some way to communicate and is her emotional and financial salvation.
- Motherhood: if you’ve never had love, you’re not sure that you can give love.
- The foster care system today: none of our participants had direct experience with it, either as a child or a parent, but we are aware of its terrible inadequacies.
- The Camellia Network, Diffenbaugh’s nonprofit addressing the issues of emancipated foster care children, is worth checking out! Its name was derived from the novel’s Victorian-era language of flowers, where the camellia means my destiny is in your hands.
Our discussion hour flew by! This book is highly recommended for book clubs.
If you’d like to continue reading along with us, pick up our book for July, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett.