I actually read The Language of Flowers a few months ago but I wasn’t posting book reviews on a blog or anything, just on Goodreads and Amazon, so I’m just copying and pasting it here which is why the first paragraph references the Goodreads rating system of up to 5 stars.
The Language of Flowers is another one of those books that make me wish Goodreads allowed “half stars” because then I’d give this 3.5 stars. It deserves more than 3 but there are some aspects of the book that cause me to hesitate on giving a full 4 stars.
I was intrigued by the idea of using flowers and their meanings as a major part of the plot. And I was curious to read the author’s perspective on a child who ages out of the foster care system, especially since she is a foster parent.
The main character, Victoria, is certainly believable, with her feelings of being unwanted and unlovable and her determination not to become attached to any one person. (Side note: if this were real life, she probably would have had 25 different caseworkers throughout her life rather than just one.) All of her acting out, as a child and as an adult seems entirely understandable, given her experiences of growing up in foster care.
My problem was with the other characters. Some of their words and their actions seemed really bizarre. For example, Renata, the florist who gives Victoria her first job, seems more than willing to pay high wages to a total stranger for very little work. (I’d love to find a job where someone hands me a wad of cash and tells me to come back and work a couple of hours next month!) She seems to not need Victoria’s help very often because she’s not that busy, but then if she’s not busy then a) why is she hiring staff and b) how can she afford to pay so much to someone who works once every few weeks? But then Renata’s sister rents a closet (literally!) to Victoria who then sleeps on the floor and it’s presented as this extraordinarily kind favor. If it were me, I would’ve preferred the halfway house to a closet with no bed. And something about the relationship between Elizabeth and Catherine didn’t make sense to me. I felt like there was something missing, something we weren’t being told, that would explain why one sister was so adamant about a reconciliation and the other absolutely refused. I finally just chalked it up to both of them being stubborn and maybe a bit dysfunctional due to the brief description of their own mother.
I wondered if maybe I was projecting my own misanthropy onto some of these characters and that’s certainly possible. It just seemed odd to me that people who are practically strangers would be so generous towards strangers. And I wasn’t really getting any sort of vibe from Victoria that would explain why all of the characters, from the “adoptive” mom Elizabeth to Renata and her family, would be so determined to keep Victoria around and so insistent on being allowed to remain part of her life. If she’s really all that cold and unemotional towards people, what motivation do they have to want to be her mother, her friend, her lover? But, again, this is probably my own feelings and perceptions and my own personal “connection” to Victoria that are affecting my view of these other characters. Or maybe they saw something in Victoria that I wasn’t getting.
Regardless of some of my confusion and frustration, it’s still a very good book. Much like a rose with thorns, The Language of Flowers is both beautiful and painful.