Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire

Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire

3.7 21
by Margot Berwin

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In the heart of New York City, hidden in the back room of an old Laundromat, are nine rare and valuable plants. Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire tells the story of this legendary garden, and the distance one woman must travel—from the cold, harsh streets of Manhattan to the lush jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula—to claim what is


In the heart of New York City, hidden in the back room of an old Laundromat, are nine rare and valuable plants. Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire tells the story of this legendary garden, and the distance one woman must travel—from the cold, harsh streets of Manhattan to the lush jungles of the Yucatan Peninsula—to claim what is hers.

Lila Nova lives alone in a plain, white box of an apartment. Recovering from a heartbreaking divorce, Lila’s life is like her home: simple, new, and empty. But when she meets a handsome plant-seller named David Exley, an entire world opens up before her eyes. Late one night Lila stumbles across a strange Laundromat and sees ferns so highly-prized that a tiny cutting can fetch thousands of dollars. She learns about flowers with medicinal properties to rival anything found in drugstores. And she hears the legend of nine mystical plants that bring fame, fortune, immortality, and passion.

The owner of the Laundromat, Armand, presents Lila with a test: if she can make the cutting from a fire fern grow roots, he will show her the secret of his locked room. But Lila is too trusting, and with one terrible mistake she ruins her chance to see Armand’s plants. The only way to win it back is to travel, on her own, to the Yucatan.

Deep in the rain forests of Mexico, Lila enters a world of shamans and spirit animals, snake charmers, and sexy, heart-stopping Huichols. Alone in the jungle, Lila is forced to learn more than she ever wanted to know about nature—and about herself. An exhilarating journey of love and self-discovery, Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire brings together mystery, adventure, and heat, in every sense of the word.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

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)

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Library Journal

At 32, divorcée Lila Nova discovers possibilities in her Union Square neighborhood when she buys a bird of paradise from David, the cute tropical plant guy at the farmers market. Later, Lila stumbles upon a Laundromat wherein exists a collection of nine plants that together supposedly allow their caretaker to achieve his or her deepest desires. Laundromat owner Armand warns her not to tell anyone, and rightly so: David steals the plants. To make amends, Lila follows Armand to his home in Mexico to replace the missing blooms. The oppressive heat and dampness, the odors of decay and rotting earth, the abundance of scorpions and otherworldly behaviors in Berwin's first novel will get under your skin, even as Lila's "adventure" leads her to self-discovery. What could have been a terrific New York novel morphs into an unconvincing tale of magical realism, where spirit animals roam the jungle and tree vibrations lead to mythological bromeliads. Readers made of sterner stuff might find the journey worth the effort. [See Prepub Alert, LJ2/15/09.]
—Bette-Lee Fox

Kirkus Reviews
Berwin's debut sends a New York singleton south of the border in search of plants with magical powers. Recently divorced, 30-ish Lila Nova lives in a tiny studio apartment, works an unfulfilling job in advertising and wonders when her dreams of adventure, riches and true love fell by the wayside. In an intriguing and well-paced premise, Lila's life is turned upside down when she buys a bird-of-paradise plant on a whim from ruggedly handsome David Exley. Lila isn't too quick-witted, but she is quick with her heart; it takes about one sentence for her to fall in love. Shortly after, she stumbles upon an extraordinary laundromat whose owner, Armand, uses it as a greenhouse for his exotic plants. Lila's involvement with Armand and David leads her to Mexico to look for the nine mythical plants of desire. There, the story veers into bizarre chaos. Lila meets Diego, a walking Armani ad rather than a credible character, with about as much personality as a billboard. The heat of her attraction to him practically emanates from the page, which might have been a nice thematic touch, if Lila's obsessive behavior with men weren't too frightening to enjoy. In the Yucatan jungle, plants take on magical powers that both help and hinder Lila on her quest. Her journey wraps up before it even begins, making it hard to believe she's had time to learn anything. Lila herself offers the only evidence that she has changed, and since she's been a fairly oblivious narrator, readers won't want to take her word for it. Poorly executed magical realism.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.80(w) x 9.24(h) x 1.05(d)

Read an Excerpt

Bird-of-Paradise (Strelitzia reginae) Native of South Africa, member of the banana family, prized for its tall, highly colored structures. This plant is not for the easily disappointed, impatient, or bossy, as it can take seven years to produce a single bloom. Perfect for the person who gives and gives without getting anything in return. You know who you are. I inadvertently became interested in tropical plants because that's what the man at the Union Square Green Market sold me. I used to believe that sentence, but now I know better. Now I know that it was meant to be. Here's how it happened. I had just moved to Fourteenth Street and Union Square, into a small, newly renovated studio with absolutely no character. It was a square-shaped box with parquet floors, no molding, no details, white paint, and low ceilings. It was exactly the kind of apartment I wanted. Its newness meant that there were no memories trapped in the walls or the floorboards. No arguments or harrowing scenes of unrequited love staring at me from the bathroom mirror. It was brand-new. Just like I wanted my life to be. I thought a bit of foliage might spruce the place up, no pun intended, and add some much-needed color, so I walked across the street to the Union Square Green Market to make my purchase. The man at the plant stand was a throwback. He had streaky blond hair and a dirt-colored tan that came from being outside all the time. In his worn-out flannel shirt and beat-up Timberlands--worn for work, not fashion--he stood out in stark contrast to the manicured metro-sexuals perusing the market, wicker baskets in one hand, Gucci sunglasses in the other. This man was different. He was a rugged country-sexual. He asked me to describe my apartment not in terms of the square footage or the make of the stove and the fridge, but by the amount of light, temperature, and humidity. I told him that I had floor-to-ceiling windows, which was mostly true, although they were more ceiling-to-heating-unit than ceiling-to-floor. I told him that I had an unobstructed south-facing view, hard to find in New York City, and that as long as the sun was shining it was hot and sunny all day long, even in the winter. I hadn't lived in my apartment through a winter, so I'm not sure why I said that, but I guess it sounded good to me, and also to him, since he bent down amongst his plants, head covered with purple flowers, butt in the air, and emerged with a big smile and a two-foot-high bunch of leaves. I was disappointed. "What is it?" "A bird-of-paradise," he said, holding it up toward the sky and twirling the pot around with his fingertips. "A tropical plant?" I asked, zipping my coat against the late-March wind and picturing its imminent death. "Hawaiian, to be exact. Strelitzia reginae. A member of the banana family. She needs lots of sunlight, not too direct, and let the soil dry out between waterings. She's tough to raise, and she won't flower for five or six or maybe seven years, depending on the weather. And the love," he added with a wink. I unzipped my jacket. Six or seven years? My marriage didn't last that long. Do you have anything that flowers sooner, like in a week or two?" "This is the plant for you," he said. "She's a beauty." "How much?" "Thirty dollars, and I'll throw in a brochure on rare tropicals so you know how to care for her." "Three zero I could go to the deli on the corner and get a dozen roses for ten dollars that have great big sweet-smelling flowers on them right now." "You could, but they'd be dead in a week. You'd have to buy new ones every Saturday. If you do the math, I'm a bargain. And besides, this bird is tropical. Think balmy ocean breezes, swaying palm trees,...


Meet the Author

MARGOT BERWIN earned her MFA from the New School in 2005. Her stories have appeared on, in the New York Press, and in the anthology The Future of Misbehavior. She worked in advertising for many years and lives in New York City.

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Hothouse Flower and the Nine Plants of Desire 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 20 reviews.
Jennmarie68 More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book only because the title sounded interesting. I didn't read any reviews on it, nor did I read through the description. They say not to judge a book by it's cover, but I did, and I'm happy. This was a very good book. It has love, romance, lust, greed, passion, death, spirituality, and just about everything else. For a debut novel, I'd say that Margot Berwin did a great job. She's left me with high expectations for her next novel. The story takes place in New York and Mexico, the Yucatan to be specific. As Lila, Armand, Diego, and Exley are all on the hunt for the illusive Nine Plants of Desire. Oh what a tangled web Ms. Berwin has weaved... This story was exciting. It was pretty fast paced and it kept me wanting more. The stories behind the nine magical and mystical plants are great. Even with all that Lila went through I want to find these plants. I did do some research on some of the nine and they really do have stories just as great as they are given in this book. (I LOVE when an author does great research!) I was captivated from the first line to the last. I will be looking for a second novel for sure!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely LOVED this book.  I had read The Language of Flowers and that stated the flow of flower novels.  I felt this was a great book and is worth reading.  I did feel like the end was a bit "happily ever after" but it has action, love, romance, sex, drugs and adventure!  Great read!
Printique More than 1 year ago
Margot Berwin brings her protagonist's NYC world alive and meets intriguing mysterious characters who lead her on an adventure where she becomes someone new. The plant magic seeps in gently as the heronine discovers herself and her own magic in the Yucatan. I didn't want Lila's story to end and I don't think it will. Hopefully this is a series and a sequel is in the works?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Eh...not so good. Characters too self absorbed in all matters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
There is absolutely nothing positive to say about this book. My book club read it and everyone agreed that it was a complete waste of time. It's mindless. The only redeeming factor was that it was a very fast read. No character development, lousy story, and horrendous writing. I'd give it zero stars if that was possible.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If you think you will find another Castaneda here, you will be sorely dismayed. The book's main female character is weak, uninteresting, and boring. She has a one track mind and ambition, which does not include growing plants. The male characters are somewhat more intersting, but not much. The only character in the book that could be very interesting is Armand's wife,Sonali, but she is not allowed to fully evolve. If you are looking for a short chapter, quick read, that leaves you feeling rather empty inside, than this is the book for you. I give it two green thumbs down.
tropicalgirl29 More than 1 year ago
A friend recommended this book to me-it wasn't my usual read, but she was raving so I gave it a turn. Now I can't stop talking about it either, and I'm pretty sure I'm going to read it again. It starts off in New York City, and I loved that part. A young divorcee who hates her job in advertising, quits, and finds love with a plant dealer from a green Market. she calls him a "country sexual" because he's a rugged outdoorsy type -(I've used that term all over the place now!) The book brings the two of them from New York to the yucatan penninsula in Mexico, where they begin their search for the nine most rare plants on earth. They are guided by a mysterious shaman named Armand, a plant dealer simply called "The Cashier", and another love interest, the beautiful Huichol Indian, Diego Pinto. the quest for the nine plants of desire leads the main character, Lila Nova, to a much closer understanding of herself. The Journey is erotic and exotic. it's got lots of interesting plant facts and plant mythology. This is honestly one of the best books I've read in soooo long. There was a review in the Daily Mirror, but I'm not allowed to post the link here...If you can find it, it pretty much sums it up! Simply a great read.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Thirty two years old New York career woman Lila Nova used to enjoy her advertising job, but lately the divorcee is finding it tedious. However, she perks up when she meets David Exley selling tropical plants at the local farmer's market. She already enjoyed plants, but until now never bought any; she purchases one of his offerings. She notices at a Laundromat a rare fern in the window. The owner Armand makes friends with Lila and gives her a trimming from the fern. He promises her if the fern grows, he will show her his special nine plants. David sees the fern in her apartment and Lila tells him about Armand. Soon afterward, Armand's plants are stolen and David has vanished. Using guilt and remorse as motivators Armand persuades Lila to accompany him to the Yucatan to obtain new magical plants. There she meets Diego. This is an intriguing thriller that takes an unexpected magical spin from a New York adventure into a Mexican semi-fantasy tale. The story line is fun in spite of Lila being too loose as she leaps on one man after another and the plot never deciding which genre is on top. Still HOTHOUSE FLOWER AND THE 9 PLANTS OF DESIRE is an engaging odd thriller with one wild twist that takes a bit of adjusting, but worth the effort for those who relish something radically different with their New Yorkers. Harriet Klausner
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Jessica Livengood More than 1 year ago
This book was impossible to put down. Sensual and colorful
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lilmika More than 1 year ago
What a wonderful quick read! I really enjoyed this book. I am an avid gardener, so it was a fun book to get away with. My girlfriend passed it on to me, and I have also. I would definately read another book from this author. -Mika
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This was so much fun to read. I could not put this book down. If you want an engrossing book to take to the beach or read any time, I can't imagine anyone beginning this book and stopping till this book is finished. I want more books from this writer!