"Anyone can grow into something beautiful."
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.
“We couldn’t put it down.” —Good Housekeeping
“Best new writer of the year … Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s instantly entrancing THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS is a modern-day fairy tale … Start by falling in love with this rare, wise, winsome book.”—ELLE
“[A] touching debut novel.”—USA Today
“Diffenbaugh effortlessly spins this enchanting tale, making even her prickly protagonist impossible not to love.”
“Fascinating … Diffenbaugh, herself a foster mother, clearly knows both the human heart and her plants, and she keeps us rooting for the damaged Victoria, who comes, finally, to understand that ‘the unattached, the unwanted, the unloved [can] grow to give love as lushly as anyone else.’”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“The first-time novelist—and real-life foster mother—masterfully mixes sweet and tart to create a story that is devastating, yes, and hopeful, but also surprisingly, satisfyingly real.”
“We’d choose lisianthus (meaning appreciation) to convey our sentiments for this beautiful story.”
—Better Homes and Gardens
“Captivating … THE LANGUAGE OF FLOWERS deftly weaves the sweetness of newfound love with the heartache of past mistakes into a novel that will certainly change how you choose your next bouquet.”—Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“This is the story of an orphan rising above her circumstances—Jane Eyre for 2011.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“Lucid and lovely … Diffenbaugh has found a vibrant way to tell a familiar story of rift (Carolina jasmine) and reconciliation (hazel).”
—Wall Street Journal
“Immensely engaging … Diffenbaugh’s most compelling love stories are those between women—mothers and daughters, sisters, friends. As Victoria’s two stories hurtle toward their conclusions, Diffenbaugh ably paces both the plot developments and an emotional arc of almost unbearable poignance.”
“Catnip for book clubs … The language of flowers, as illuminated through Victoria’s words and a special appendix, turns out to be an addictive preoccupation: once you know that peonies represent anger; basil, hate; and red carnations, heartbreak; every bouquet takes on a new significance.”
1.) What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has a hard time seeing in herself?
2.) While Victoria has been hungry and malnourished often in her life, food ends up meaning more than just nourishment to her. Why?
3.) Victoria and Elizabeth both struggle with the idea of being part of a family. What does it mean to you to be part of a family? What defines family?
4.) Why do you think Elizabeth waits so long before trying to patch things up with her long-lost sister Catherine? What is the impetus for her to do so?
5.) The first week after her daughter’s birth goes surprisingly well for Victoria. What is it that makes Victoria feel unable to care for her child after the week ends? And what is it that allows her to ultimately rejoin her family?
6.) One of the major themes in The Language of Flowers is forgiveness and second chances – do you think Victoria deserves one after the things she did (both as a child and as an adult)? What about Catherine? And Elizabeth?
7.) What did you think of the structure of the book – the alternating chapters of past and present? In what ways did the two storylines parallel each other, and how did they diverge?
8.) The novel touches on many different themes (love, family, forgiveness, second chances). Which do you think is the most important? And what did you think was ultimately the lesson?
9.) At the end of the novel, Victoria learns that moss grows without roots. What does this mean, and why is it such a revelation for her?
10.) Based on your reading of the novel, what are your impressions of the foster care system in America? What could be improved?
11.) Knowing what you now know about the language of the flowers, to whom would you send a bouquet and what would you want it to say?