Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Cover: The Language of Flowers (trade paperback edition)
I was accompanied on my bus commute in late November/early December by The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh (Ballantine Books, 2012).

The book grabbed my attention with a dramatic opening in which the story’s narrator is on the verge of emancipating from the foster care system. The story alternates between present-day and the narrator’s experience growing up through foster care.

While growing up, Victoria Jones, the narrator, is introduced to the hidden meanings that are assigned to flowers. Her flower selections leave coded messages that are often known only to her.

Upon reaching adulthood, her ability with flowers provides her with the means to earn a livelihood. It also serves as the primary way in which she connects with people.

I could relate to Victoria’s use of flowers to subtly communicate. So much human communication, what many people take for granted, is a mystery to me. Facial expressions, body language and unspoken rules can be as subtle as Victoria’s bouquets.

The “language of flowers” could be a personal metaphor for this subtle communication.

I could likewise relate to Victoria's difficulty in getting close to people, in her case growing up in a system that offered little support and no permanence.

One personal interjection: I disagree with the meaning assigned by tradition to sunflowers, “false riches.” In the following poem, the sunflower is a metaphor for my husband’s spiritual pursuits.
Apollo’s chariot crosses the sky;
The sunflower follows his progress above.
His bright golden petals are lifted on high;
Thus for the truth is the quest of My Love.
This is what the sunflower is and shall ever be for me.

Cuesta College, through which I take long-distance courses, chose The Language of Flowers for its 2013 Book of the Year. I appreciate the shared experience of reading a book in common and am grateful to Diffenbaugh for offering me a copy of her book.

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