I can’t remember the last time I sat down and read a novel for pleasure. The simple act of words across paper, no pens, no highlighters, no taking notes. Just time and tea and the swish of one page turning into the next. So when The Language of Flowers arrived in my post box, on loan from a friend, I knew it was time to read.
The first few times I picked it up, I could only read a page or two. Slowly, as I adjusted to tempo and the transitions in time (it is written in both present-day and memory), I began reading more, pages turning into chapters turning into whole sections in one sitting. The final stretch, the last 100 pages, were read curled under the covers next to my love. I don’t know if I could have finished it otherwise.
The thing about this book is that it is, from the outset, about an orphan. A woman who knew nothing other than the pain of not having a real family. And somehow, there is a deep thread of hope, that something else is possible. You can tell that Victoria (the protagonist), for all her anger, has something special about her. Reading the book is a process of unfurling her petals, getting closer to the center, gaining her trust.
So many of us carry wounds from childhood, from adulthood. Often we think we’ve worked through them, we imagine that the healing is done and we can forge ahead, building new relationships and new connections. But some wounds go deeper than we can ever truly know. It isn’t until we try to form relationships that defy expectations and nourish our soul that we encounter the scars (and perhaps even the festering they contain). It’s in this moment we have a choice: re-open the wound and release the infection, allowing us to heal — or give up everything we’re building to avoid the hurt.
Anyone can grow into something beautiful.
Sometimes it’s a secret, holding our hearts captive like a prisoner of war. Sometimes it’s just a feeling, a nagging hurt that doesn’t leave. Sometimes it’s an anger, or a nonchalance, or an intensity that frightens away those we seek to hold most close. However our lives have wrought the pain, there comes a moment when we have to choose. It won’t be easy. It won’t be attractive. But it might just save our lives.
Victoria has a secret, one that has kept her from happiness, from family, from love. A secret she shares with no one, throughout group homes and onto the streets for her eighteenth birthday. But her secret suddenly appears behind a bucket of flowers, and she’s forced to make a choice.
Our secret hurts can appear anywhere. We can’t plan or prepare for them, no matter how hard we work on ourselves or our lives.
There are hurts we carry that even we don’t know exist until they are poked and prodded and made to ache.
This book was, for me, that poking and prodding. It was ripping off a bandage that had stuck to a wound, taking with it all the growth and healing I thought I had done.
Don’t let this scare you though. The reason I ultimately chose to write about this here is because reading The Language of Flowers made me see how much work I have the chance to do. Reading it in December, just before the holiday, ripped me open in a way I needed more than any gift. This book, with its sadness and its beauty and the bonus of learning floriography (the actual language of flowers), encourages me to reflect on my wounds, to begin the long process of turning over the ground to make the soil of my heart rich and fertile, to plant flowers to bloom in every season. I’ve sent a dozen copies to friends and loved ones in the past few weeks. And I will continue to send them as I find them, because this book is one I will never forget.