The Language of Flowers
By Vanessa Diffenbaugh
(Ballantine Books, Hardcover, 9780345525543, 336pp.)
Publication Date: August 23, 2011
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A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters 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 she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning 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.
To write The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh found inspiration in her own experience as a foster mother. After studying creative writing and education at Stanford University, Vanessa taught art and writing to youth in low-income communities. She and her husband, PK, have three children and live in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is her first novel.
- What potential do Elizabeth, Renata, and Grant see in Victoria that she has a hard time seeing in herself?
Praise for The Language of Flowers
"Instantly enchanting…. [Diffenbaugh] is the best new writer of the year." -Elle
“I would like to hand Vanessa Diffenbaugh a bouquet of bouvardia (enthusiasm), gladiolus (you pierce my heart) and lisianthus (appreciation). In this original and brilliant first novel, Diffenbaugh has united her fascination with the language of flowers—a long-forgotten and mysterious way of communication—with her firsthand knowledge of the travails of the foster-care system. … This novel is both enchanting and cruel, full of beauty and anger. Diffenbaugh is a talented writer and a mesmerizing storyteller. She includes a flower dictionary in case we want to use the language ourselves. And there is one more sprig I should add to her bouquet: a single pink carnation (I will never forget you).”—Washington Post
"A fascinating debut…. Diffenbaugh clearly knows both the human heart and her plants, and she keeps us rooting for the damaged Victoria." -O Magazine
"Diffenbaugh effortlessly spins this enchanting tale, making even her prickly protagonist impossible not to love."--Entertainment Weekly
“An unexpectedly beautiful book about an ugly subject: children who grow up without families, and what becomes of them in the absence of unconditional love...Jane Eyre for 2011.” –The San Francisco Chronicle
"(T)he 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."--Redbook
“A moving and beautifully written portrayal of the frailty – and the hardness – of the human spirit”. –The Daily Telegraph (UK)
“Lucid and lovely” –The Wall Street Journal
"We couldn't put it down."--Good Housekeeping
“Diffenbaugh creates a story of promise and redemption.” –The Sacramento Bee
“A deftly powerful story of finding your way home, even after you’ve burned every bridge behind you. The Language of Flowers took my heart apart, chapter by chapter, then reassembled the broken pieces in better working condition—I loved this book.—Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet
“This hope-soaked, glorious book speaks to every once-broken, cracked, or poorly mended heart about the risks we take to heal, to be fully human, to truly connect. An astonishingly assured debut.”—Joshilyn Jackson, author of Gods in Alabama
“As a foster care survivor, I feel a kinship with Victoria Jones as she battles loss and risk and her own thorny demons to find redemption. Vanessa Diffenbaugh has given us a deeply human character to root for, and a heart-wrenching story with insight and compassion to spare.”-- Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife
"The Language of Flowers is a primer for the language of love. Vanessa Diffenbaugh deftly gathers themes of maternal love, forgiveness and redemption in an unforgettable literary bouquet. Book clubs will swoon!"-- Adriana Trigiani, author of Very Valentine and Don’t Sing at the Table
“This heartbreaking debut novel about mothers and daughters, love, and the secret significance of flowers had me weeping with emotion and wonder. Victoria Jones is an unforgettable heroine and you will never look at flowers the same way again.”—Tatiana de Rosnay, author of Sarah’s Key
“Is it really possible that this is Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s first novel? I can hardly believe a debut writer can bring this much insight and polish to a story. What an achievement!”—Kelly Corrigan, author of The Middle Place
“The Language of Flowers gives us new definitions of human compassion in all its forms. Bouquets of laurel and trumpet vine await this beautifully arranged story!”—Helen Simonson, author of Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
“Devastating, hopeful, and beautifully written—The Language of Flowers is a testament to the tender mercies and miraculous healing power of love.”—Beth Hoffman, author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt
"The language of flowers, as illuminated through Victoria's words and a special appendix, turns out to be an addictive preoccupation."--NPR
“The Language of Flowers is a warm, satisfying, feel-good read.”—Metro
“A sensory feast of flowers and their symbolic meaning, this tale – seen through the eyes of foster care survivor Victoria – is uniquely compelling.” --ASOS
“Enchanting, ennobling, and powerfully engaging, Diffenbaugh’s artfully accomplished debut novel lends poignant testimony to the multitude of mysteries held in the human heart.”—Booklist (starred review)
“Fans of Janet Fitch’s White Oleander will enjoy this solid and well-written debut, which is also certain to be a hit with book clubs.”—Library Journal (starred review)
"Vanessa Diffenbaugh delivers a first-class, literary forget-me-not."--King Features
"A compelling story about spiritual hunger and the power of nature—and human connection—to help heal hearts."--Bookpage
“Uses green, growing things to say something fresh and special about human life.”—Chicago Tribune"Elegantly written...a true “page-turner”."--Chicago Sun-Times
“A novel of emotional depth and uncommon force.”—Chicoer.com