At eighteen, Victoria achieves what is called “emancipation” from the foster care system. This is the beginning of Vanessa Diffenbaugh’s novel The Language of Flowers. Reading this book became the second part of the foster care theme that invaded my summer.

Victoria’s “emancipation” leaves her homeless, sleeping in a public park, and stealing flowers to plant her own garden. Hope comes in her own ability to choose flowers to convey a message in beautiful arrangements and in the form of a florist who sees beyond her outward appearance and hires her.

The story moves back and forth between her nine-year-old self and the young woman trying to establish herself as an adult, with her antisocial (thistle) behavior ongoing as a prominent thread of her life. She has difficulty seeing and accepting real love (red rose) at both ages, and doubts her own ability to give maternal love (moss) to her baby.

The reader needs patience (aster) with Victoria as both the child and the adult seem determined to thwart the efforts of those who want to get close to her and help her. I will not spoil the ending except to say it leaves hope for strength and health (purple coneflower) and new beginnings (daffodil).

The book is a good read if one is looking for nothing more than a story. I enjoyed it for that but also because it raised my awareness of foster children’s needs as they move out of the system. The leap into adulthood is hard enough for young people who live in a forever family with a backup if life goes hawywire.  

The author, herself a foster parent, has written a good story with an honest look at the best and the worst in foster care. In an author interview she says, “Foster children and foster parents, like children and adults everywhere, are trying to love and be loved, and to do the best they can with the emotional and material resources they have.” She has established the Camellia Network for help in transitions like Victoria’s from foster care to adulthood. The website is www.camellianetwork.com.

I didn’t find her didactic, but I will be. My suggestions: read the book, open your heart, and become friends with (or a parent to) a foster child.

In my next blog, I will recommend two very good middle grade novels with foster children as protagonists.