Today I am reviewing HotHouse Flower through TLC Book Tours. (I am provided with a copy of the book but am not compensated in any way for my honest review.)
About the book (from the publisher): HotHouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire is one woman’s journey from the modeling and advertising world of New York City to the rain forests of the Yucatan Peninsula. From the hot and steamy plant dealers in the Union Square Green Market, to the curanderos, herbalists and shamans of Southern Mexico.
Lila Nova is a 32-year-old adverting copywriter who lives alone in a plain white box of an apartment. Recovering from a heartbreaking divorce, Lila has a simple mantra: no pets, no plants, no people, no problems. But when she meets David Exley, a ruggedly handsome plant dealer, a country-sexual, as she calls him, her lonely life turns into something far more colorful. From the harsh streets of Manhattan to the verdant jungles of the Yucatan, Hothouse Flower is the story of a woman who travels beyond sense and comfort to find out what she really wants.
My review: Lila, the protagonist, is a newly divorced woman living in Manhattan and working in the world of advertising, where she is increasingly disillusioned with what she sees. She discovers exotic plants through a plant dealer selling in Union Square and eventually meets Armand, the owner of a lush, tropical forest of a laundromat. Through these two meetings, she sets off on a journey of discovery that takes her from Manhattan to the rain forests of the Yucatan Peninsula.
There is a strong element of myth and magic in this novel. The author creates a myth centering around the powers of the 9 Plants of Desire. Obtaining these rare plants turns out to be the obsession of many and each chapter heading features a plant and its description. Characters like Armand and the people who reside in and around the jungle live in a world where the improbable becomes probable, the imagination soars and everyday life is full of magical thinking.
Lila herself is very interesting. Though sometimes I get impatient with her seeming naivete and the mistakes she makes in judgment, I also realize that she is indeed like all of us: flawed and vulnerable and searching for that elusive something that makes her whole. Her carefully created and somewhat narrow world is due for a shake-up and she has some growing up to do.
The descriptions of the plants and the jungles of the Yucatan are rich and filled with wonderful detail. I felt as if I was there, trudging through overgrown paths, the chattering sound of monkeys all around, sweating from the sweltering humidity.
This is a novel that requires a leap of imagination. If you read it with more than a smidgen of doubt or skepticism, you’ll have a hard time with the plot. I suggest you just go along for the ride and leave your ‘practical thinking’ behind. You just might be transported. Margot Berwin is to be commended for creating this magical world in her debut novel.
The publishers have graciously offered a free copy of this novel for one lucky commenter on this post. Just leave a comment! I will contact the winner and pass along his/her address to the publisher. You must be a resident of the United States or Canada. I will pick a winner on September 2nd.
About Margot Berwin: MARGOT BERWIN won a merit scholarship for creative writing from the New School and earned her MFA in 2005. Her stories have appeared on Nerve.com, essaysandfictions.com, The New York Press, and in the Anthology The Future of Misbehavior. She lives in New York City.
In a totally different vein: Congratulations to Jim Parsons, a student of mine in the MFA Acting Program at USD/The Old Globe as well as a good friend, for winning the Emmy for his work as Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory!!!! I am so proud, I can’t stand it!