The Language of Flowers

Before I caught the train out of New York, I trolled the Hudson News store for a new book, since I’d finished What Alice Forgot while sitting in the thunderously loud waiting station.

Around to the back past magazines of every sort, I found a faced out wall of shelves with a manageable selection to choose from, but many of which I’d already read.

The one book that piqued my interest was The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. The paperback cover showed a girl in a yellow tulle skirt and wellies holding a sprig of flowers. The back explained the most interesting premise; a child who’d been emancipated from the foster care system at the age of eighteen and who used her gift for flowers, specifically the Victorian principles of the language (and meaning) of flowers, to help others and make sense of her past.

Finding meaning, healing, and coping?

It was begging to be chosen.

But my indecisiveness (read libra-ness) led me to replace the book on the shelf and I found myself thinking about it all the way back to Connecticut and into the next day.

Once back to my girls (who were just fine thank goodness) and conscious that our long vacation is coming to a close (it’s time), I decided I would go back to my old ways by downloading the book to listen to as I putter through Mommyland (makes doing dishes less dreadful) and head out for solitary runs (my pace, my time).

The decision turned out to be the right one and although only twelve chapters in, I feel like the novel might linger and live with me much like The Book of Ruth (by Jane Hamilton) has since I read that way back in the early nineties.

I like flowers, but I do not have a green thumb.

I like peonies, tulips, freesia, and sea roses.

Daffodils, geraniums, rhododendron, lavender, hydrangea and sweet peas.

I’ve never been a fan of daisies. Not Gerbers. Not Shastas. Not sure why.

The story has been a joy to listen to, as has learning about the actual language and meanings of the flowers. It’s seriously good writing (the first novel for Ms. Diffenbaugh), engaging and a real page turner (can I say that if I’m not actually turning pages?).

To make it even more special the story takes place in San Francisco where I, too, grew up and I’m gaining immense pleasure from visualizing the uprooting (stealing) of lavender bushes from the stoops of fancy homes in Pacific Heights to the description of a grand Mexican dinner South of Mission (no one makes a burrito like the ladies at 24th and Valencia) and the types of vegetation found on Divisidero (oh, Divisdero).

I know it’s far too soon for a completely thorough book review, but from the place that I have paused I can strongly recommend this gem, totally and completely.

My mother has had this on her bookshelf for years, but I had never noticed it. Upon reading my blog post she brought it to me. This copy of The Language of Flowers was written and illustrated in 1913 by a man for his wife on their golden anniversary. The flap describes a gentler time. I would have to agree. 

2 thoughts on “The Language of Flowers

    1. It was really good. Definitely related to Alice on many levels. Don’t want to spoil it by telling you the ending…. message me if you read it!!!

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