Susan Orlean does a great job being amazed by people without condescending to them. John Laroche is quite the character and were he to be a subject of a podcast or a presence on the internet, he’d likely milkshake duck as soon as possible.
This book follows Susan Orlean’s interaction with Laroch, a roughneck Florida orchid enthusiast who is somewhere between amateur botanist, entrepreneur, and conman, living among the conmanest state in the union, Florida. This book provides background on the swamps and land development in Florida, the history of Orchid enthusiasts and collectors, Native American law history, and lots of other stories trying to connect the dots to this story of a Laroche attempting to steal and then clone the ghost orchid.
This plot is crazy scheme because not only are orchids rare in the wild, but they exist in delicate ecosystems, don’t bloom for 7 or so years, and there’s almost no market for them commercially. It’s a very American story.
Obviously, it’s hard to read this book for the first time having seen Adaptation about a dozen times, which if you haven’t seen brilliantly tells the story of intrepid screen writer Charlie Kaufman, working on the script for this book, and hitting many walls, not the least of which is Susan Orlean herself becoming embroiled in the meth trade and a lover affair with Laroche. None of this happened, and Susan Orlean signing off on that movie makes me love her even more. The book is already quite funny and kooky as it is.