I would like to hand Vanessa Diffenbaugh a bouquet of bouvardia (enthusiasm), gladiolus (you pierce my heart) and lisianthus (appreciation). In this original and brilliant first novel, Diffenbaugh has united her fascination with the language of flowers — a long-forgotten and mysterious way of communication — with her firsthand knowledge of the travails of the foster-care system. She is full of flower wisdom and has fostered many children, often damaged victims of an unresponsive bureaucracy.
Her 9-year-old heroine, Victoria Jones, has already passed through at least 32 foster families that couldn’t handle her. Her social worker describes her as “Detached. Quick-tempered. Tight-lipped. Unrepentant.” Now Victoria is being taken to live with Elizabeth, yet another foster mother. “This is your last chance,” she’s told. “Your very last chance.”
Elizabeth, the owner and operator of a vineyard, was raised on a flower farm. Nothing Victoria can do to alienate Elizabeth succeeds — including filling her shoes with prickly-pear spines. “I will love you, and I will keep you. Okay?” Elizabeth states calmly. She feeds Victoria’s fascination with flowers, and they go together to the flower market, where Elizabeth’s teenage nephew works. She tells Victoria she’s never had contact with him as a result of a feud with her sister.