Tuesday, March 16, 2010



Beth reviews HOTHOUSE FLOWER AND THE NINE PLANTS OF DESIRE by Margot Berwin (Pantheon, 2009)

As you may remember I am often drawn to books by their covers and this one was no exception—the bold colors, the gold printed title. It drew me to it, and once I read the jacket flap, I was sold. (My interest in plants didn’t hurt either.)

Ad executive Lila Nova is recently divorced and living in an all-white box of a studio apartment with large windows. She is trying to understand how her life came to this—living alone with “no pets, no plants, no people, no problems.” Deciding that adding some greenery wouldn’t hurt, she heads out and meets David Exley, a guy who sells plants.

Exley is everything an outdoorsman should be—streaky blonde hair, a dirt-colored tan, and sexy. After a short-sell, Lila is the proud owner of a bird-of-paradise plant. She won’t have this plant die like her marriage died, and as the plant flourishes under her careful care, so does her interest in tropical plants.

After a troubling day at work Lila heads to her favorite bar, and on the way there she spies an amazing tropical plant hanging in the window of a Laundromat. Drawn inside, she enters a new world. The floor is soft moss, grass grows from the tops of machines, and best of all are the tropical plants. The heat and humidity of the Laundromat makes it the perfect home for these plants.

Armand, the Laundromat’s owner, is as mystical and strange as his business. Armand gives Lila a cutting from the fire fern that originally brought her in, and he encourages her to grow it. If the fern grows he will show her the “nine plants of desire” he keeps secretly in the back of the Laundromat.

With the fire fern in her apartment, Lila realizes that her place is still bare and needs more plants. Exley is happy to sell her two more. When Exley delivers them to her apartment, Lila invites him to dinner the next week. He cancels on the same night that her fire fern grows roots.

Lila is overcome with joy and makes plans to visit Armand, but suddenly, she grows suspicious of him. Instead of going to Armand she visits Exley, and asks him if the fern is authentic. Exley craves the exotic plant and all the money it could potentially bring him. Lila is now suspicious of Exley, but she also wants a share of the money. She agrees to be Exley’s go-between, with the goal of bringing him more of Armand’s exotic plants.

Lila takes a new plant cutting to Exley and he invites her to dinner. He wines and dines her into showing him the Laundromat. A few days later, Lila discovers that the Laundromat plants are gone--along with Exley. Lila feels responsible for the theft, and Armand easily talks her into a crazy trip to the Yucatan to hunt for replacements. In Mexico, Lila finds more than she bargained for with Armand—adventure, romance and much more!

Beth, Highland Branch Library

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