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Hothouse Flower: and the Nine Plants of Desire (Vintage Contemporaries) Paperback – June 1, 2010
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Amazon Exclusive: Christina Schwarz Reviews Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire
Christina Schwarz is the author of So Long at the Fair, All Is Vanity, and Drowning Ruth, a #1 bestseller in both hardcover and paperback, which was selected for Oprah’s Book Club and optioned by Wes Craven for Miramax. Read her exclusive Amazon guest review of Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire:
Debut novelist Margot Berwin gives her fecund imagination free play in this lush and steamy summer read. Recently divorced and craving a blank slate, 30-something advertising copywriter Lila Nova moves into a new studio apartment “with absolutely no character” on Union Square. Lila, the sort of contemporary heroine given to amusing self-deflating wisecracks, is not, however, destined to inhabit a clean, white box for long. Within a few chapters, packed with romantic betrayal, plant lore and a couple of visits to a surreal Laundromat in the East Village, she’s on her way to “high adventure” in the Yucatan rain forest, where she’ll encounter ancient magic, poisonous creatures, a murderous exotic plant dealer, and, yes, true love. A wildly inventive novel as vivid and colorful as a jungle flower.
(Photo copyright Deone Jahnke)
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Berwin delivers a bangup debut packed with adventure, betrayal, love and, naturally, rare plants. New York ad woman Lila Nova, increasingly disillusioned with her job and the city, becomes enchanted by David Exley, a handsome guy selling plants at a green market. Soon, she's hooked on him, and her budding fascination with tropical plants leads her to a Laundromat that has a rare fern displayed in the window. Proprietor Armand quickly befriends Lila and gives her a trimming from the fern to take home, telling her if it forms roots, he'll show her the nine special plants he keeps in the back room. When Exley sees the fern trimming, Lila tells him about Armand's special plants, and soon the plants have been stolen and Exley has disappeared. Armand guilts Lila into coming to Mexico with him to find replacement plants, and there's magic, romance, greenery and greed as Lila and Armand venture through the Yucatan, hooking up with potential love-interest Diego and running into the devious Exley. It's a fun page-turner—escapist and wonderfully entertaining. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Here you have story about a 30 something divorcee, Lila, living in New York who is trying to deal with the emotional after effects of divorce - new life, new apartment: clean slate. In the process of redesigning her life she goes to the market place to buy greenery for her new apartment. She finds the proprietor of the plant stand intriguing and earthy in a hunky kind of way, and buys her first tropical plant, not knowing the tremendous effect that this purchase will make in her life. She then encounters a mysterious laundromat with secrets which opens her up into a world of myth, plant magic, mystery, love, and adventure...
Intrigued with the mysterious plant stand proprietor and laundromat owner and new affinity with tropical plants she gets caught up in deception and thrown into a quest for retribution because of lust and greed. This quest sets her off to Mexico in search of the 9 plants of desire where she encounters plant lore, shaminism, learns about survival, meets an exotic modern-day tarzan who is more intoxicating than chocolate, and ends up a changed woman by the end of the story. I won't ruin the rest of the story by giving away too much, so pick up the book and read it.
If you are looking for a character who demonstrates personal growth, who tackles the fine lines of love, attraction, guilt, retribution, and becoming one with nature, then this story is for you. There are a lot of personal insights about human nature sprinkled throughout without lecturing. You learn about taking risks and truly living life outside your comfort zone.
And the metaphorical language between human nature and plant life is enlightening. The descriptions are vivid without ever becoming overbearing. You could actually picture yourself in the various settings within the story (i.e. the New York Green Market place, Mexican Jungle/Rainforest).
However, many of the key characters seem a bit eclectic and too surreal with their "bigger than life" looks and personalities, but that was probably one of its major charms. THe characters were not boring. This story makes a fascinating read for anyone who is looking to escape, who wants to take a virtual but very "raw" adventure into a foreign land, experience lust (with subtlety yet erotic), go on a treasure hunt of sorts, and at the end be left breathless and renewed.
A highly recommended artistic read!!
Story: New York ad woman Lila Nova, increasingly disillusioned with her job and the city, becomes enchanted by David Exley, a handsome guy selling plants at a green market. Soon, she's hooked on him, and her budding fascination with tropical plants leads her to a Laundromat that has a rare fern displayed in the window. Proprietor Armand quickly befriends Lila and gives her a trimming from the fern to take home, telling her if it forms roots, he'll show her the nine special plants he keeps in the back room. When Exley sees the fern trimming, Lila tells him about Armand's special plants, and soon the plants have been stolen and Exley has disappeared. Armand guilts Lila into coming to Mexico with him to find replacement plants, and there's magic, romance, greenery and greed as Lila and Armand venture through the Yucatan, hooking up with potential love-interest Diego and running into the devious Exley. (from Publishers Weekly)
Spiritual/metaphysical content: High. In the preface, Berwin explains that her knowledge of plant magic and shamanism is drawn from her experiences with a friend named Armand. I know little of the art of herbal magic, but her descriptions are fascinating. Armand's knowledge of plants makes me wish I knew more. Although the material is extremely intriguing, I found myself wanting to learn more about Armand's experiences in the spiritual realm that I could learn from and apply in my own life.
Debut author Margot Berwin has produced an excellent novel. The plot is tight and moves quickly, her language pleases the senses, and I particularly enjoyed how she structured the chapters around the plants that are vividly described in the book. The introduction to each chapter contains a quirky introduction to the plant that aptly sets up the story to follow. The exotic setting perfectly complements the story's mysticism.
My take: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The plot is a page turner, and the lush and lascivious descriptions of plants made the novel a pleasure to read on several levels. However, although I felt engaged by the book, I never did connect to the main character. Lila seems cold and remote from the beginning, and her later actions prove her to be greedy, ruthless, and destructive. The ending was definitely unexpected, which is always good. However, it was not entirely satisfying from a metaphysical perspective. More people than just Lila and Exley were revealed to have selfish motives, and Lila did not seem to learn or change very much as a result of what should have been truly profound spiritual experiences.