I began this book, by Susan Orlean, thinking it was about a weird guy in Florida named John Laroche, and his arrest and trial for stealing orchids out of Fakahatchee preserve in south Florida. What it ended up being was a long, and sometimes interesting, look at obsessions, particularly orchid obsessions and what drives the people who are obsessed by them.
What I learned: orchid people are weird. I don’t understand what people see in them in the first place, and I don’t feel any more enlightened. It’s an either you love them or you hate them type of thing. I thought the history of orchid collecting was fascinating, especially about the orchid hunters, the people rich collectors in England would send out to actually get the orchids (since they most likely died in England, and they didn’t know how to clone them yet). They lived fascinating, dangerous, mostly undocumented lives. Then there was the role that the state of Florida played. I’ve never been, but the way Orlean described it, it’s a weird and unusual and vaguely terrifying place. I liked the parts about Florida and the wildness of it best.
The writing was good, but I had to read this one in short doses, because as weird as the people are and as good as the writing is, it just couldn’t grip me and hold my interest for long periods of time. I guess I just don’t go in for obsessions much. And a whole book on a plant I’m not really interested in was a bit much.
Though I did finish it, so that must mean something. Right?