The Language of Flowers

Mar 31, 2015

Milk_thistle_flowerheadAt the beginning of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh, we learn learn that moss is an emblem of maternal love, a bouquet of marigolds represents grief, and a bucket of thistle, misanthropy.

This is amidst the protagonist Victoria Jones detailing her dreams of fire (which she’s had for eight years), only to wake up when her mattress actually begins to burn. It’s the morning of her 18th birthday.

Safe and sound, Victoria regards the “row of fidgeting girls (who) sat on a sagging couch,”—her farewell committee that has given her the aforementioned farewell/birthday “gift”—on the morning of her emancipation as she’s “aged out” of the foster care system.




What is to happen to a young woman with no family and no real education or training is the minimal plot that spurs the story along (along with the fire mystery). Diffenbaugh unwinds and constructs a fantastical story that’s engaging, revealing, heart-warming, heart-wrenching, and even appalling, all while also being too “on point.”

Despite a world of mess, near-misses, and actual horrific events, other elements fall into place too easily and too neatly for Victoria, which triggered within me an itch of dissatisfaction. But Diffenbaugh has created an original enough story that I kept reading, and even though the ending is expected, after an absorbing, dramatic, and sometimes stomach-turning roller coaster ride of a journey, it’s welcoming to coast into the home station, having landed in a safe haven.


Moss=Maternal Love

Moss = Maternal Love




Photo of thistle, top right, by fir0002 | Canon 20D + Sigma 150mm f/2.8 (Own work) [GFDL 1.2 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of moss by Dick Mudde (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons




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