Shuffled around various foster homes since birth, Victoria Jones has developed a heavy shell preventing her from forming any close bonds. 18 and emancipated from a group home in San Francisco, Victoria puts her knowledge of the language of flowers to use by working under the table with a local florist in an attempt to stabilize her constantly shifting life. She then finds love, but runs away from any type of affection because she feels she doesn’t deserve it.
The book alternates between Victoria’s adulthood at age 18, and her childhood at age 10. Although we learn about the various abuse Victoria suffered in the different foster homes, she never whines or complains, just accepts it. It is clear why she made the decisions that she did over the years, and why she has so much trouble letting her guard down. Being constantly let down by nearly every person in her life, she learned to only rely on herself. It is because of this past that she makes some very wrong decisions in her present life. I still found myself hoping that she would just realize that the people around her care and would help her if she let them.
I found Victoria to be a very likable character despite the walls she had built around herself. I did find it odd that for all the negative treatment she received as a child, there was nothing but warmth when she went out on her own at age 18. The people she encountered; Renata and Grant, were very quick to be understanding and sympathetic to her needs. I also felt that some parts of the novel fell into place much too easily. Although the ending wasn’t the typical happily ever after, it was close enough. There are a number of heartbreaking scenes in the book, especially in regards to Victoria’s experiences with motherhood. It was frustrating, but Diffenbaugh’s writing added multiple yet subtle layers of complexity to the anxiety and battle within Victoria.
This book is Diffenbaugh’s first novel and I am immensely impressed. It was carefully crafted and you could really see the research that she put into this book, mostly in regards to the flowers. There is even a glossary in the back of the book that lists the flowers and their meanings.