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 Yucatán 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.