This was one of the weirdest books I’ve read, from the subject (orchids and the people who love them/steal them), to the characters (actual people–all crazy) to the casual, rambling style of the author. But overall, I think I liked it? It was definitely interesting, and I certainly know more than I used to about orchids.
“I never thought very many people in the world were very much like John Laroche, but I realized more and more that he was only an extreme, not an aberration – that most people in some way or another do strive for something exceptional, something to pursue, even at their peril, rather than abide an ordinary life.”
In the 1990s, John Laroche went on trial for poaching orchids from the Florida Everglades. Author Susan Orlean, fascinated by what would make a man do that, ends up in Florida to investigate. She follows Laroche around, listening to his stories and theories, and earns a pretty good education about the seedy underbelly of the orchid community — aka, these people are all obsessive nuts who like to spend lots of money on flowers.
It’s actually pretty interesting, although I got a bit tired of Laroche after a while (I suspect the author did, too). The history of orchid-hunting fascinated me the most — going back a couple of hundred years, people routinely risked their lives (and lost them) in an attempt to gain fame and fortune by collecting rare orchids. Flowers, people. They died for flowers.