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The Language of Flowers is an interesting, but predictable story with symbolism and appeals to the senses that make it worth reading. The story’s narrator, Victoria, shows the reader a different side of life as she remembers her challenging past as a foster child and describes a present in which she struggles to get by as young woman, recently sent out on her own. She recalls her life, at her ideal home, where she finds love with a woman named Elizabeth. Elizabeth teaches her to interpret and express emotions and see beauty in things through the Victorian “language of flowers.” The symbolism of the flowers and the pictures they paint within the novel are ultimately the highlight of the text, providing images of color and comfort for the reader.

Diffenbaugh succeeds at portraying the effects of a life as a foster child in a way that makes the reader wish things were different. Victoria moves from one home to another, year after year, unhappy, confused and alone.  The reader empathizes with Victoria, as she struggles to make good choices that positively impact her life. The author remains realistic in her depiction of Victoria, never allowing for too much success. This is expected in real life, but the in the novel, Victoria and her future are always predictable. The people involved and outcomes are easy to decipher. But, the flowers bring the book to life.

The author interweaves the significance of the language of flowers into Victoria’s life. She remembers, first, learning how Victorians used dictionaries to express ideas and emotions with flowers, each one had a corresponding meaning.  While Victoria’s life is often sad and lonely, there is always light and happiness to be found in her mindfulness and interpretation of the natural world. The reader is reminded of the power of thought and perception. The reader feels the calm and clarity Victoria experiences through the  plants, sun, bouquets of flowers. Even when it seems to the reader as though Victoria isn’t trying to improve her life or move on, she uses the language of flowers to propel herself forward. There is a lesson to be learned from Victoria, and her ability to use what she knows to feel better, get a job, and support herself with little help from others.

This is a story people enjoy reading, because it is an honest tale of struggle, which reminds people that hope can be found in unlikely places. Diffenbaugh’s use of the language of flowers to represent optimism is an inspired touch, which resonates with readers, because we know the positive impact sights and scents have on the senses. Read and enjoy!

Final Star Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars