Hothouse Flower and the 9 Plants of Desire
By Margot Berwin
Pantheon • 288 pages
Lila Nova is a high-powered New York advertising executive who’s secretly getting a little tired of the corruption of her job. Lonely and ready to start afresh after a nasty divorce, she buys a houseplant from a charming botanist, little knowing that plants will very soon take over her life.
Walking home after a party one night, she notices a rare fern in the window of a laundromat and stumbles inside. There she finds a magical oasis of exotic greenery, every surface covered in moss, vines, and flowers. And there she meets Armand, a strange, mystical man who acts like he knows more about her life than she does. Despite his strangeness (and slight creepiness), Armand turns out to be a hugely popular figure in the neighborhood, as folks line up with their laundry just to get a chance to speak to him for a few minutes. He claims that people are drawn to something they don’t even realize — the nine “plants of desire,” a collection of rare plants he’s spent his lifetime gathering, which he keeps locked in a back room.
Then Lila does something stupid, and Armand’s oasis is destroyed, his plants stolen. To make it right, she takes off to Mexico in search of the plants.
Fanciful and educational at the same time, Hothouse Flower provides a muggy escape to the jungle of the Yucatan Peninsula. If, like Lila, you’re able to suspend disbelief and just go where fate takes you, you’ll enjoy this colorful escape of a novel. —Erica Jackson