When I checked out The Language of Flowers from the library, a few months ago, there were several copies on the shelf. Now there is a long waiting list for each copy. I guess it takes some time for word of mouth to do its job.
The Language of Flowers tells the story of Victoria, an eighteen year old, with no family, no ambitions, and now that she is emancipated from the foster care system, no place to go. But Victoria has a gift with flowers. When she was ten years old she lived for a short while with Elisabeth, the only woman who wanted to mother her, the only person who loved her, the only person she has ever loved. Elisabeth taught her to care for flowers and to understand what they symbolize:
Red roses mean love; yellow roses infidelity…There’s rosemary; that’s for remembrance… And there’s columbine; desertion; holly , foresight; lavender, mistrust.
Victoria finds a job with a florist and brings joy to people’s life through her gift. She meets a mysterious vendor at a flower market, Grant, and starts a tentative relationship with him. The story of Victoria’s new life is told in parallel to the story of her life at age ten as Elisabeth’s foster daughter. Victoria cannot forgive herself for what she did to Elisabeth. Renata, the florist, asks Victoria:
Do you really think you’re the only human being alive who is unforgivably flawed? Who’s been hurt almost to the point of breaking?
She looked at me deeply. When she looked away, I knew she understood that yes, I did believe I was the only one.
Victoria needs to learn to forgive herself and become Elisabeth’s daughter before she can become a wife and a mother.
Victoria’s loneliness, hurt, and self-destruction tendencies are extreme. They’re also believable and heart wrenching. For the first time, I understood and sympathized with drifters who sleep in public parks. I highly recommend getting a dedicated box of tissues along with the book.