Book Review: Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire

At first glance, this sounded like the perfect book for me.  I mean, it’s about plants.  Hello?  So me, right?

I don’t know what happened, but I knew next to nothing going into this book.  I know I’ve seen reviews, several trusted bloggers loved it, but somehow, none of the descriptions of the book stuck in my overcrowded brain. Big surprise, right?  But it was cool, sometimes I like to come into a book completely blind.  It reminds me of the old, pre-blogging, days when I picked up books on a whim.  Ya know?

So, anyway, this book is about finding yourself.  Or, rather, it’s about Lila Nova finding herself.  Fresh off a painful divorce, Lila is taking baby steps.  She has her own place and, now that she’s feeling a little stronger, she thinks it’s time to try taking care of something else.  So, she buys a plant.  But not just ANY plant.  No, New York City living, advertising executive working Lila buys a tropical plant.  It’s a bird-of-paradise and she is instantly attracted to the seller, David Exley.  Exley is hot and it isn’t long before, well, you know how it goes.  David introduces her to the my of the nine plants of desire.  The legend goes that whomever owns all nine plants will have their wildest dreams fulfilled.  Then, how convenient!  She meets Armand, who claims to own all nine plants.  As you would imagine, obsession seems to follow this myth wherever it goes and Lila is quickly just as obsessed as everyone else.

Lila is naive.  She trusts EVERYBODY and as a result, she’s off on an adventure of a lifetime, in the Yucatán.   Alone.  In the rain forest.  And here, things get pretty exciting.

Don’t let my flippancy fool you.  I really enjoyed this novel.  I thought it was great fun!  And wow, I never quite realized how, well, sexy plants could be!  There were a few blush-worthy moments in this book, let me tell ya.  Quite a few sexy-times!  But don’t let that put you off; nothing is really heavily described or anything.  I loved the characters.  Lila was more than just a New York City Ad Executive looking to find herself.  Berwin gave her personality beyond that.  What could have been a caricature was not.  Exley was more than just a plant salesman, more than just a lover, friend, and bad guy.  Armand was, by far, my favorite character with his lovely laundry, his lovely home deep in the wilds of the rain forest, and with his robust sense of humor.  And Diego.  Oh, Diego.   Want to know more about him?  You really should read the book.  But, if I was a cat, I would purr.

What’s more,  Berwin has a wonderful way with words.  It is like poetry!  Her descriptions of the different plants, of the rain forest, of everything are so lush and gorgeous.  For instance:

“Plants need roots because they can’t move on their own. Their roots serve them well, stopping them from getting blown all over the place by the wind. But we humans can move around at will, and our roots hold us in place unnecessarily. Usually in a place we don’t want to be. Then, when we try to move, we rip our roots, and it hurts, so we end up staying right where we are.”


“It was a color I didn’t realize the earth could make without the help of human beings. I knew the water would be blue, but I had in mind a tamer, more pastel blue: a light color through which all the sand and fish underneath would be clearly visible. This water was like super-wavy, lit up turquoise, and so beautiful I could hardly take my eyes off it. The moment I was spellbound by the color of the water was the moment I knew I had been in New York for to long and my decision to leave was a good one.”

Gorgeous!  I’m so glad I was able to join the tour for this book.  It wasn’t everything I expected, it was more and less, but it was a wonderful read.

Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire
Written by Margot Berwin
General/Literary Fiction
Published by: Vintage
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
On Sale: June 1, 2010
ISBN: 978-0307390547
Rated: 4/5

Purchase from The Book Depository.

See all the other participants on the TLC Blog Tour.

I am a Book Depository associate and will make a very small profit if you buy a book through one of my links.

9 thoughts on “Book Review: Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire

  1. I'm the author of this book and I'm really very glad you reviewed it.

    It's strange to say but now that it's been published and out for about a year (hardcover last year, paperback this summer), I think I feel a lot like you do. It was more than I hoped for as a writer, and also sometimes less. I feel that way about a lot of things in life, and with my writing in particular there's always more I could have done, in hindsight, of course. And things I wished I'd taken out, too.

    Anyway, I'm so happy this got on your radar and you gave it a read! A fair, honest, and insightful one at that.

    And Iris, A lot of reviewers have given my book a "finding yourself" theme line. But believe me, when I was writing it, that wasn't in my head at all. I wanted to write a female adventure story. I hope you enjoy it if you get around to reading it…

    Thanks again for writing me up and helping me get the word out!
    Margot Berwin
    Hothouse Flower and the nine plants of desire

  2. “It wasn’t everything I expected, it was more and less, but it was a wonderful read.” That is such an incredibly good line and has me fascinated. I am not sure though, somehow, the theme of “finding yourself” really gets on my nerves in books.

  3. Hmmmm…I can’t quite figure out if this is a book I would enjoy or not. But then, that really is part of the fun every time one opens a new book, right? Regardless if I ever pick up this book, I definitely enjoyed your review. 🙂

  4. Lovely review. I don't think I would have initially picked this book up because, frankly, I'm not sure I can take one more heroine from NYC going out and doing anything, be in discovering herself, learning to butcher, eating, whatever.

    BUT your review has piqued my interested, as did Ms Berwin's comment about wanting to write a female adventure story. (I'm a sucker for adventure stories!)

  5. Love the passage about roots! See now I was all ready to write off this book as light fluff when I started reading your review–boy am I glad I kept reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *