Synopses & Reviews
Like so many of us, Lucinda Fleeson wanted to escape what had become a routine life. So, she quit her big-city job, sold her suburban house, and moved halfway across the world to the island of Kauai to work at the National Tropical Botanical Garden. Imagine a one-hundred-acre garden estate nestled amid ocean cliffs, rain forests, and secluded coves. Exotic and beautiful, yes, but as Fleeson awakens to this sensual world, exploring the island's food, beaches, and history, she encounters an endangered paradise--the Hawaii we don't see in the tourist brochures.
Native plants are dying at an astonishing rate--Hawaii is called the Extinction Capital of the World--and invasive species (plants, animals, and humans) have imperiled this Garden of Eden. Fleeson accompanies a plant hunter into the rain forest to find the last of a dying species, descends into limestone caves with a paleontologist who deconstructs island history through fossil life, and shadows a botanical pioneer who propagates rare seeds, hoping to reclaim the landscape. Her grown-up adventure is a reminder of the value of choosing passion over security, individuality over convention, and the pressing need to protect the earth. And as she witnesses the island's plant renewal efforts, she sees her own life blossom again.
"An admitted news junkie, journalist Fleeson imagined she would die in the Philadelphia Inquirer's newsroom with a half-written story in her computer. But as the newspaper business began its cataclysmic shift in the late 1990s, she started to feel stymied and leapt at a fund-raising job with Hawaii's National Tropical Botanical Garden. Arriving on the island of Kauai, she discovered that Hawaii's native plants were becoming extinct at an alarming rate, with two-thirds in danger of disappearing by the end of the current century. Fleeson delves into conservation efforts the history of the garden's benefactors, two gay men with a passion for exotic plants and even more salacious parties during the years after WWII. She spotlights a full-time bartender who attempts to cultivate rare plants with basic greenhouse equipment. Finally, she shadows Kauai's own 'Orchid Thief': the Robin Hood of Hawaii known for picking endangered plants in national forests and turning them into prized specimens on his own preserve. An artful and lively tale of flora and fauna illustrates their complexities and serves as a reminder of the need to nurture both. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Part history, part personal confession, part cautionary tale about environmental preservation...[An] impeccably researched, beautifully told tale of how America's most exotic locale transformed the life of an urban journalist." --Gioia Diliberto, author of The Collection
"When the few remaining individuals of an endangered plant species are too few to have much chance of survival in nature, we must intervene; the same is true when our own lives reach a level of sameness at which they seem to lose purpose. In this engaging book, Lucinda Fleeson tells us how she found new meaning for her life among the plants and fascinating people of the tropical paradise that is the beautiful island of Kauai in the Hawaiian islands. Highly recommended." - Peter H. Raven, President, Missouri Botanical Garden. St. Louis
"Fleeson's descriptive talents come to the fore as she summons the pungent dilapidation of her surroundings and the drama of the landscape . . . A surviving-middle-age story that artfully blends the intriguing world of natural science with the theater of human foibles."--Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Lucinda Fleeson is director of the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Program at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. She was a reporter at the Philadelphia Inquirer
for many years and has been awarded an Arthur Rouse Award for Press Criticism, a McGee Journalism Fellowship in Southern Africa, a Knight International Press Fellowship, and a Nieman Fellowship at Harvard. Before settling in Washington DC, she lived in Philadelphia, Boston, New York, Budapest, Botswana, and, most notably, Kauai.