Just spent a lovely, lovely evening with friends catching up, laughing, sharing a meal and discussing The Language of Flowers.
My friends and I (my book club), alternate month to month between fiction and nonfiction. A little something for everyone. And this month’s options were down to me. I gave the group a handful of titles to choose from, and — while I’ll admit that I was hoping Charles Yu’s How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe would win — I wanted to read all of the books I put up for the vote, so I was happy enough when Diffenbaugh’s book won.
I’d chosen not to read the more spoiler-y reviews, so I didn’t know what to expect, but the premise interested me: Victoria ages out of foster care … life ensues.
Language reads so easily, totally passed my “has it drawn me in” test by making me almost miss my stop on the subway and bus, and by having a number of moments that made me close the book because I couldn’t bear to see what Victoria would do next … and then open it again immediately because I couldn’t bear not knowing. The characters feel real (mostly), and the writing is good. I had problems with some of the choices the author made, some of the character inconsistencies that I found jarring. I had problems with the ending — the “how” of it, not the “what.”
Maybe what moved me most of all in reading this book, is that it made me think of my grandmother, Mom. I’ve written here at least once about the fact that she was a foster parent for decades. Thinking about the way Victoria grew up, and thinking about the difference having a long-term foster home meant for many of the kids who came Mom’s way. Thinking about the ones who thrived, and thinking about the ones who couldn’t stay, as much as they needed to. Thinking about the one’s whose families stayed connected to them and came back for them, and thinking about the ones whose families couldn’t be those families. Wondering what happened to the ones who didn’t stay in our family after leaving Mom’s house.
Victoria would never have been one of Mom’s kids — social services only brought her the brown babies — but page after page after page, I found myself wishing that she could have been.
Like Victoria, my grandmother had an amazing skill with plants. I have no idea if she ever bothered to learn anything about the language of flowers, but she certainly knew how to grow just about anything. She didn’t spend a lot of time on flowers — they were in the outdoor garden, but were more casual decoration, not for picking and gracing a dining table or night stand. She grew vegetables and she grew non-flowering plants. Her indoor garden was amazing, filling shelf after shelf after shelf in lush, many-hued leaves and fronds.
I don’t know anything about the language of flowers, either … I mean, I didn’t before I read the book. I knew it existed, but I hadn’t ever thought about it. Now, I’m itching to send coded messages through the seemingly casual combination of blossoms. A year ago, I started buying myself flowers at the start of every weekend (thank you, Apartment Therapy, for making that a new habit!), and I love choosing them. The man I buy from knows me now — what I like, my price range, how much I like to be surprised by something I haven’t seen before. I wonder what he’d say if I asked him what each flower means. Perhaps it’s time to take our floral relationship to the next level.
To see all of today’s slices, head over to Two Writing Teachers!