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Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire ~ Margot Berwin

August 18, 2009


Genre: Adult Fiction

Publisher: Pantheon Books

266 pages

ISBN: 9780307377845

Prissy, city business woman with failed relationship, embarks reluctantly on a journey,  finds life changing adventure and learns to unwind.

It seems like I could describe the formula for every mediocre book I’ve read recently, this way. I had all but crossed Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire off of my list when it came in to the library per my months-old request (based on this sexy, catchy little thing). Having recently finished some great books, I thought I might be able to give it a chance without letting it hurt my average too much. Now, I get to give you a big 1950’s toothpaste commercial smile and say, “Gee, I’m sure glad I did!”

While the basic story begins as any other, it grows into something completely different, quickly. Lila Nova is a middle aged, divorced advertising guru, wound too tight to function. On a stroll through the Union Square green market, one day, she happens upon David Exley, a charming plant dealer, who waxes romantic about having the perfect plant for Lila’s ailing soul: a bird of paradise. Taking home her very first living object to care for her since her husband walked out, Lila begins to finds herself rather attached to the plant. She strikes up a casual friendship with Exley that leads her to a slightly deeper knowledge of plants and eventually a slightly, ahem, deeper knowledge of Exley.

What could possibly go wrong? Oh, everything.

Shortly after buffing up on the tropical flora trade in New York City, Lila comes face to face with a beautiful fern attached to a rather unlikely city laundromat. Run by eccentric, fifty-something plant enthusiast Armand, the small business is a local hangout for answer seekers, both mystical and mundane. After a bizarre botanical test, Lila is deemed worthy of Arman’s backroom secret: he has, in his possession, the nine plants of desire.

After an avoidable blunder ends in disaster, ultimately losing Armand the laundromat and the plants to Lila’s big mouth, the two shake on a plan to go down to the Yucatan to retrieve more clippings, restoring the collection. Leaving the concrete jungle for the organic model, the travelers are immersed in an age old web of psychedelic folklore that will heat up even the coldest Manhattan heart.

What a fun little book! Though it takes a fair amount of time to lay the ground work for the real adventure, the second half of the book is well worth the wait. And, while parts  made me scream “why do all chicklit protagonists have to be hammered over the head with the message we all got hours ago“, it did that less than I was expecting and its occurrence at all was my only complaint.

The plant information is fascinating but the story reads, at no point, like a text book. It flows more like a well guided romp through the rain forest, covering known characters like canabis sativa and the mandrake but also luring all parties, fictional and reader, into an obsessive hunt for a plant that no one has seen, to date.

It is definitely a beach read but a very different approach to the “girl meets sexy plant dealer” yarn. Don’t expect a botany dissertation; just relax, sit back and enjoy because it is just too much fun.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 18, 2009 11:01 pm

    This sounds totally fun! Or at least your review does! I love the idea of learning about plants sort of as an aside. Thanks for the review!

  2. August 20, 2009 8:08 am

    This does sound fun! It’s nice to get those books that end up being a surprise.


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