Friday, September 23, 2011

Virtual Book Tour & Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

First line: For eight years I dreamed of fire. 

From the back cover: The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, aster 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 that she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market inspires her to question 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.

My thoughts: Every once in a while you come across a book that just moves you and you can't stop thinking about it. This is that book, an emotionally powerful novel that will definitely be finding a permanent spot on my bookshelf so that I can read it again and again.

The Language of Flowers tells the story of Victoria, a child of the foster care system, that is angry at the world and believes no one could ever love her and that she can never love anyone. The story is told in chapters alternating between the present and events that occurred when Victoria was 10 years old. This is when she had her last chance at a family and a normal life, when she was placed with a potential adoptive mother, Elizabeth, until something goes catastrophically wrong. We get a surprisingly vivid picture of both the 10 year old Victoria and the 18 year old Victoria.

This novel offers many different models of motherhood, from Renata and Elizabeth's pseudo-maternity that looks an awful lot like the real thing, to Victoria's mother who abandoned her as an infant, to mothers who smother or panic or simply go insane. Flowers is the common thread running through the book. The title derives its name from the Victorian practice of communicating through flowers. Each common flower was given a meaning, and by presenting a given flower to another, one could communicate that meaning. I loved the dictionary in the back with all the flower meanings and found myself looking up the meanings of the flowers I had in my bridal bouquet - calla lily (modesty) and delphinium (levity) - as well as some of my favorite flowers - lilacs (first emotions of love), tulips (declaration of love), and lupines (imagination).

I will definitely be recommending this book to all my reader friends...and I hope to see more great books from Vanessa Diffenbaugh.

About the author: Vanessa Diffenbaugh was born in San Francisco and raised in Chico, California. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford, she went on to teach art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children: Tre’von, eighteen; Chela, four; and Miles, three. Tre’von, a former foster child, is attending New York University on a Gates Millennium Scholarship. Diffenbaugh and her family currently live in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where her husband is studying urban school reform at Harvard.

You can visit Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s website at

 I received a complimentary copy of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh from Pump Up Your Book  as part of the tour.


  1. Thanks for the wonderful review of Vanessa's debut novel. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You're in good company. So many reviewers have loved this one. Now I'm kicking myself for not getting a copy for the tour.

    Readers can check out this video on YouTube of Vanessa talking about the book:

    Hope you have a great weekend.


  2. I have a copy of this book but haven't started it yet. Your review makes me want to read it even more. I think the Victorian idea of the meaning behind flowers is really neat. Very nice review!


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