You know how sometimes when you go on vacation, you want something light to read but don’t want it to be so trashy as to elicit condescending looks from people sitting next to you on the plane? Well, I’ve got the perfect holiday read for you: Margot Berwin’s Hothouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire. I just road-tested this theory and received only glances of interest and curiosity. I mean, look at that eye-catching cover. And here’s an instance where you can judge a book by its cover because the story inside is just as colorful and full of life.
Berwin’s debut novel is about Lila, a newly divorced New York ad exec who decides to buy some plants for her new apartment. In the process, she meets a handsome plant vendor, David Exley, and Armand, who owns a magical laundromat set up like a tropical jungle, with plants everywhere (the steamy air is good for them), moss on the floor and butterflies flying free. Armand tells Lila about the nine plants of desire, each representing a quality such as fortune, love at first sight and magic. The plants can only be found if they choose to reveal themselves to someone they deem worthy. Once a person possesses all nine, his/her desires shall be granted.
Lila goes searching for the plants in the rain forests of the Yucatan Peninsula, where she encounters snakes, an enigmatic jungle guide, lots of scorpions and a black panther which shadows her. While looking for the plants, she finds something even more important—her spiritual strength.
The story has a little bit of everything—adventure, humor, romance, magical realism, interesting plant facts—so no wonder a movie is in the works with Julia Roberts attached. Even with all these elements, Berwin manages to keep the pace breezy. Her vivid description of the extraordinary laundromat made me wish I had one in my neighborhood and her account of cannabis sativa in the form of sinsemilla—the plant of female sexuality—is incredibly sensual. Unlike the potent marijuana this plant produces, however, this novel will take you on a wild ride without killing any of your brain cells.
Nerd verdict: An exotic, sexy Desire