Thursday, July 19, 2018

The Language of Flowers - Book Review

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To read The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is to reflect on how the bouquet of each of our lives is crafted flower by flower.  As we enter Victoria's story, none of us would want the bouquet she sees as the definition of who she has become: thistle, peony, and basil (flowers that represent a deep mistrust of people, anger, and hate).  Well before the end of this book, I suspect, like me, that you will be urging Victoria, in your heart of hearts, to pick a few white violets and daffodils.

Who is Victoria, this self-described thistle?  She is a child who has spent her entire life in the foster care system.  Victoria's self-image has been shaped by the one constant she has known throughout her childhood: rejection.  After being bounced from 32 different placements, Victoria is finally aging out of the system.  Having turned 18, she is eligible for emancipation.  While that freedom is welcomed, it comes with a whole new set of challenges.  Victoria has no money, no family, and no place to call home.  What she has, though, is an extraordinary gift for changing lives.  It will be the discovery of this gift that offers up new hope for a girl who has always been too afraid to hope, or trust, or love.

We learn early on that Victoria had one significant relationship at the age of nine.  Her foster parent, Elizabeth, taught Victoria how the meanings of flowers were an important form of communication during the Victorian Era.  This language of flowers is something intuitive for Victoria.  Plants, flowers, and growing things become her solace, her sanctuary, and the very life of life.

As Victoria seeks to find her way in a world that frightens her, individuals from her past reappear.  One offers the chance for true love.  The other offers the chance for redemption.  Both can give Victoria something she has always wanted more than anything: a family and a sense of belonging.  Will Victoria be able to move past the shame and feelings of unworthiness that stand in the way of making her way home?  You will want to read The Language of Flowers to discover the answer to that question.

Before we go, were you curious, in the introduction to this review, about why we might want Victoria to pick some white violets and daffodils to replace the thistles, peonies, and basil in her bouquet?  Those white violets represent the sentiment "let's take a chance on happiness" and daffodils are symbolic of new beginnings.  When it comes right down to it, isn't that what we wish for everyone who has waited a lifetime to grow into something beautiful?







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15 comments:

  1. This sounds like a delightful book. I am interested in both flowers and children who have been in the foster care system. I love the idea that each of our lives is a bouquet.

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    1. This book sounds right up your alley, Barbara. I have often thought of becoming a foster parent. Here's to creating a lovely bouquet with our lives.

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  2. OMG, this is the next book that I will read. Like Barbara I love flowers and their meanings, although I have been known to grow a thistle or two. Thank you for this review, it's coming just at the right absolutely right time for me.......

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    1. I love how books find us at just the right time. I'm sending you a virtual bouquet of cosmos (joy in love and life).

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  3. Diana, your words describing this book are as lovely as the flowers themselves. You are a Daffodil yourself with the 'new beginnings' you give and have given in the world of pet rescue. Thank you for introducing "The Language of Flowers" to me.

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    1. Thank you for making my day, Elf (I send you a nosegay of bellflowers... gratitude). I was just thinking about how it's almost been a year since I rescued Finn (Mr. Muffin). He is the best new beginning in my life.

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  4. This sounds like such a lovely book to read. Your review alone makes me want to put down the book I am currently reading and pick this one. I've never studied the meanings of flowers. I've heard a few along the way, but never really focused on them. I found it interesting that my beloved peony would have a negative meaning. Well, not my peony. Clearly, that was someone else's idea :)

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    1. I know your peonies would never be angry. :-) The premise of this book was so interesting. Learning more about the meanings of flowers provided me with lots of inspiration. A tidbit I picked up while preparing this review: One of the most recent royal weddings incorporated the language of flowers into the bridal bouquet (the myrtle Kate Middleton carried in her nosegay was connected to Queen Elizabeth's wedding bouquet). What meaning would you give to peonies? To me they represent nostalgia.

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    2. Oh, that is easy! Because they have so many petals, I would have to say they are layers of individual beauty combined to make one magnificent creation by God. A gift from God.

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    3. Beautiful! I said nostalgia because of all the memories I have of the peony bushes that were grown by friends and relatives. When I was growing up, you could always count on certain flowers being grown generation after generation (lilacs, peonies, lilies, morning glories, and more). Thinking of those flowers takes me back to the time I spent with loved ones.

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  5. Such a wonderful book review, and a book that sounds like something I need to read soon. Now I want to know the meanings of the rest of my favorite flowers (daffodils have always been my favorite).

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    1. I think this book will really resonate for you given your profession. I hope you find it to be a very meaningful read. Thank you for appreciating my review and your kind comments.

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  6. I love the way you write a book review. It's so clear and to the point. You always draw me in from beginning to end. I'm interested in this book! Excellent review.

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  7. I read this book for my book club awhile back and really enjoyed it. Your excellent review brought it all back to me. Thanks.

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