The Language of Flowers ~ Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s
Life is wrapped in meaning. Sometimes meaning is derived from communal or global customs dating back centuries. Sometimes the things that signal emotional responses come from newer, more personal experiences that only mean the world to the individual. More often than either of these, alone, the two combine, creating a tricky web of cultural and personal tapestry that is both comforting and deceiving.
Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s The Language of Flowers explores this connection and often the disconnect that follows. Her story tracks emancipated 18 year old, Victoria, through her first year or so out of state custody. Victoria, heretofore, has been in failed foster situations or institutionalized group homes. Detached and removed, she throws her every waking moment in to the only thing she can love unconditionally: the language of flowers, the complex symbolism that came to social power in the Victorian age.
Using every flower as a message of animosity, friendship or things in between, the code was popular in its day but known by few, now. Aptly named, Victoria treasures this as her sole devotion, though she has often used the language first created for intimate interactions to ward off personal contact.
In a city like San Francisco, though, there is only so long one can avoid the masses, it isn’t long before Victoria is caught up in the bustle of the city’s booming flower business, and it’s more than minor love business. Her life of isolation and disconnected existence is threatened and, at points toppled, by her present, future and past in ways she never imagined possible.
A study in the emotional hardships we all face, foster children or not, the story is a heart string tugger, for sure. At moments, as a people oriented extrovert, I found Victoria’s choices to push away contact, very off putting but took them as her own signature quirks. Her detachment aside, Victoria is a lovable character who I, as a reader, wanted to see succeed. I think, more than an analytical breakdown of the parts that made me uncomfortable for the above reasons, I feel like this will be a piece better remembered as a composed whole. There were micro points of redemption, as well as failure, but on a macro scale, I feel as though the entire saga played out in a favorable way, though not everything ended perfectly.
Diffenbaugh remained true to Victoria which I found to be something I ended up admiring. A tough cookie, for sure, she was at least consistent in her fears and dreams. This is a beautiful study in humanity as well as it is an interesting look at botany. I will be making a few more references to this as the publishing date gets closer but I did want to start talking about this now as I think it is a lovely and complicated book.