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Thewanderingjew

Thewanderingjew

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh

The Language of Flowers - Vanessa Diffenbaugh

 


I have both the print copy and audio copy of this book, but I decided to listen to the audio book because it makes use of idle time while I am doing something else that doesn’t require much thought, like laundry. The title did not make me want to read the book. I wasn’t interested in learning about flowers. However, my daughter suggested it, and in reading it, I discovered that it was about the relationship of flowers to people, flowers to romance, flowers to serenity, flowers to love, and the effect of these flowers on people’s lives. It was about what a flower symbolizes and how it can bring about harmony and serenity to people, and I discovered it was a really good book.
Victoria Jones is the main character. She was abandoned and brought up in various foster homes and girl’s homes where she was abused and unloved. A life of meanness and unhappiness followed her, until she was placed in Elizabeth’s home. However, lonely, with no social skills and an inability to trust the system, even at the tender of age of nine or ten, she is disappointed by the way life has treated her, she is overcome with her own frustration and anger, and she always sabotages whatever good fortune comes her way, making foolish, dangerous decisions which throw her life into more and more turmoil and chaos with unhappy consequences. She rejects the world and largely remains uncommunicative and a troublemaker, until she turns 18 years old and is released from the last group home in which she resided.
Her life had spiraled downward for a long time, but when finally she is of age, and can strike out on her own, she begins to have a modicum of success. Still, in spite of her good fortune, she is not comfortable with her success or herself. She has little confidence and believes she is undeserving of respect or admiration. She is unable to accept true feelings of love and rejects them rudely.
The narrative of the book flows very smoothly and never gets tedious. It will engage the reader, and it will be hard not to read it straight through to discover Victoria Jones’ eventual fate. As I listened, I thought, this is kind of a fairy tale. There are many evil people and many innocent victims, but in the end, it all works out and no one really pays for the error of their ways. The victims overcome their hardships and their problems and find happiness, regardless of their sins. All is always somehow forgiven by very kind and understanding, compassionate people. It was utopian, in its way.
Yet, it is also a very painful book to listen to, or read, because the main character is, in fact, an abandoned and mistreated child, forgotten by society and treated fairly coldly by her social worker. She does not develop any self confidence or self-respect because of constant ridicule of one kind or another. Her unhappiness grows with her abuse and she soon believes she is unworthy to be loved or even to know how to love in return. I found her to be weak and mean, at times, completely at a loss when it came to appropriate behavior. She was never given the proper social or psychological attention that she needed, and her social worker seemed more concerned with her own successful conclusion of the case than she was with the fate and treatment of Victoria, the child.
I thought Victoria was sad, lonely and angry. These emotions made her manipulative and often cruel and just as abusive as some were to her. She lied to everyone, she betrayed everyone she came in contact with, and still, she was forgiven by all of these people. I, on the other hand, found it hard to feel to sorry for her or to forgive her for her behavior or her irresponsibility, because her self-pity consumed her, above all else, and she didn’t seem to appreciate all the luck that came her way, so she never seemed to grow into a more mature adult. She didn’t trust anyone even though there was evidence that, after awhile, she should and could trust certain people. She tossed all people into the same bucket and ran from all accountability.
When I finished the book, I knew it was a good read. The use of flowers to determine people’s behavior and futures was very clever and the story was made more meaningful because of the history behind each of the blooms. Still, I didn’t like Victoria any better when it ended. Somehow, she manages to survive on her own, with no money, no wherewithal, in the street or because of the kindness of others, and still, she continues to feel sorry for herself and is unrepentant for too long. As an 18 year old, she was able to start a business from nothing, earn the trust of others, though she trusted no one, get paid under the table, which I think is totally dishonest, and have a child out of wedlock which she discards, and yet, is forgiven and not brought to justice by anyone. I think, in the end, this book sets a poor example for the behavior of young adults, even if the story is entertaining.

(As an aside, not all foster parents are cruel or abusive. I was one, and my husband and I were very involved with our foster child’s care and education, treating her with respect and affection. She shared a room with our daughter and was treated as one of the family.)