The Language of Flowers – Discussion Questions
Word of mouth around the brilliance and beauty of The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh spread like pollen among avid readers. People were captivated by the gritty, raw look at ageing out of the foster system, yet the language and story held delicate beauty as well.
A mesmerizing, moving, and elegantly written debut novel, The Language of Flowers beautifully weaves past and present, creating a vivid portrait of an unforgettable woman whose gift for flowers helps her change the lives of others even as she struggles to overcome her own troubled past.
The Victorian language of flowers was used to convey romantic expressions: honeysuckle for devotion, asters for patience, and red roses for love. But for Victoria Jones, it’s been more useful in communicating grief, mistrust, and solitude. After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, she is unable to get close to anybody, and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings.
Now eighteen and emancipated from the system, Victoria has nowhere to go and sleeps in a public park, where she plants a small garden of her own. Soon a local florist discovers her talents, and Victoria realizes she has a gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. But a mysterious vendor at the flower market has her questioning what’s been missing in her life, and when she’s forced to confront a painful secret from her past, she must decide whether it’s worth risking everything for a second chance at happiness.
Discussion Questions for The Language of Flowers
Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s publisher has a nice list of discussion questions at their website. For a deeper, more personal discussion, consider adding the following:
- Flowers are often considered luxuries and frivolous. For this lost girl, why do flowers speak to her? Why does she put stock in something so temporary and fragile?
- Were you able to connect with Victoria on the page, even with her intimacy issues? Would you like her if you met her in real life? Why or why not?
- What gifts do we receive when we are flooded with early unconditional love? Can we rectify a deficit of early connections and love?
- Change is necessary in life. What is the tipping point for too much change? How important is security for growth?
- How does motherhood distill our thoughts on family? How do you think differently about motherhood before you had children and after?
- At what age is it appropriate to be considered independent and an adult? Does this age vary for people and circumstances? At what age were you entirely independent of your parents? Are parents always considered a safety net?
- What practical skills would you teach to those ageing out? (For example, cooking, taxes, self care, banking, etc.) Have you made a specific effort to teach your children these skills or do you think they pick them up through example?
- Victoria learned a lost language. Much like Latin, very few people understood the language of flowers. Why then was the inaccuracy of her language so world-changing to her?
- Have you ever had experiences with the foster care system? How can ageing out of the system be improved?
The Language of Flowers was optioned for film in 2011 but there is no current word on production (February 2013).
The author, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, is also the founder of the Camellia Network, which supports youth transitioning from foster care into independent lives.
On Wednesday, I will share the recipe for Flowered and Sugared Shortbread Rounds for your next book club.
Until then, may words nourish your soul.