The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

I have heard a lot of wonderful things about The Language of Flowers and I must say a lot of the hype surrounding this book is warranted. The author did her research. The writing is beautiful and easy to follow. I thought I might hate it because a book about a girl who is obsessed with gardening and the meaning of flowers is akin to me getting excited about a game of golf. It's not the type of subject matter I find appealing.

 

However, this topic is nicely interwoven with the problems the protagonist faces. It didn't take me long to become interested in Victoria's life and her experiences in the foster care system. Victoria Jones is not a very likeable character, but I definitely sympathized with her during the first half of the book. The second half? Not so much.

 

Victoria was abandoned by her mother when she was an infant and spent the first eight years of her life being neglected and abused in a long line of foster homes. She doesn't trust anyone, doesn't like physical contact, and has never known how to love another person until she is sent to live with Elizabeth, a woman who owns a vineyard and makes wine. However, events transpire which lead to a failed adoption, and Victoria is forced to live in several group homes until she is eighteen years old.

 

Victoria is an incredibly sullen and bitchy character. Given her background, it's hard to condemn her for her inability to trust people or show affection. Perhaps it is a fairly realistic portrayal of people who grew up in the foster care system. However, the second half of the book was immensely frustrating to read because Victoria achieves little character growth and repeatedly fails to learn from her mistakes. People enter Victoria's life who show her kindness and love. Grant and Renata don't have any reason to show Victoria compassion, but they incorporate her into their lives anyway. When certain events occur and life gets serious, Victoria bolts.

 

I don't find it remotely believable that Renata and her family would keep Victoria's whereabouts from Grant given the reason she leaves, especially since it's evident that there's more at stake than just her well-being. Victoria does something so reprehensible during this point of the story I almost stopped reading the book altogether.  I understand Victoria has gone through traumatic events in her life that have shaped her worldview. Yet, she knows right from wrong. Living through difficult circumstances does not excuse treating people like crap. There is no justification for Victoria's behavior and it is highly unrealistic that she would be so easily forgiven by the people she abandoned when she reenters their lives.

 

I'm all for happy endings, but the conclusion of this book was too neat. I don't believe Victoria truly felt remorse or took responsibility for her actions.  While the book's ending was dissatisfying, the journey Victoria embarks on is thought-provoking and worth reading.