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)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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.]
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.