The Language of Flowers. Finished 1-16-16, rating 4.5/5. fiction, 323 pages, pub. 2011
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. from Goodreads
Why don’t we use flowers to convey feelings anymore? It’s such a romantic and mysterious thing to do and I think communication these days could use a little more nuance. I loved learning about the hidden language of flowers as I read this intriguing and beautifully written debut novel.
The novel tells the two stories of Victoria, the nine-year old foster care kid who doesn’t believe she will ever find a home and the 18-year-old who is homeless, friendless and in love with flowers. At nine, Elizabeth became her last hope for a mom and her brash decision severed the chance. At 18, she just wants to make enough to eat and if she can do it by working with flowers, all the better. Renata, that friend that we all should have, gives Victoria a job and an opportunity at a relatively normal life.
Victoria was a tough character. Even though, by the end, I came to the point of wishing her a happily-ever-after, it took me a while to get there. She was a foster care survivor (32 foster families before being set free on her 18th birthday) and was so detached, prickly, defiant and complicated that I didn’t realize how much I cared about her until the end. So many of her 18-year-old decisions were tragic and damaging, and had me wanting to shake her out of her own psyche.
This book will rip your heart out with the deeply flawed Victoria and her journey to make a life that she never really let herself think was possible. I loved the people who were there for her to make the journey possible, equally flawed but maybe a little less complicated. Victoria is not a character I will be forgetting about any time soon.
I am so glad that Lloyd loved it and that I won his giveaway a few years ago. I’m even happier that I finally read it!