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The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession | [Susan Orlean]

The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession

There is something fascinating or funny or truly bizarre on every page of this true tale of floral obsession: the story of how the head of a famous Seminole chief came to be displayed in the front window of a local pharmacy; or how 700 iguanas were smuggled into Florida; or the case of the only known extraterrestrial plant crime.
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Publisher's Summary

The orchid thief in Susan Orlean's mesmerizing true story of beauty and obsession is John Laroche, a renegade plant dealer and sharply handsome guy, in spite of the fact that he is missing his front teeth and has the posture of al dente spaghetti. In 1994, Laroche and three Seminole Indians were arrested with rare orchids they had stolen from a wild swamp in south Florida that is filled with some of the world's most extraordinary plants and trees. Laroche had planned to clone the orchids and then sell them for a small fortune to impassioned collectors. After he was caught in the act, Laroche set off one of the oddest legal controversies in recent memory, which brought together environmentalists, Native American activists, and devoted orchid collectors. The result is a tale that is strange, compelling, and hilarious.

New Yorker writer Susan Orlean followed Laroche through swamps and into the eccentric world of Florida's orchid collectors, a subculture of aristocrats, fanatics, and smugglers whose obsession with plants is all-consuming. Along the way, Orlean learned the history of orchid collecting, discovered an odd pattern of plant crimes in Florida, and spent time with Laroche's partners, a tribe of Seminole Indians who are still at war with the United States.

There is something fascinating or funny or truly bizarre on every page of The Orchid Thief: the story of how the head of a famous Seminole chief came to be displayed in the front window of a local pharmacy; or how 700 iguanas were smuggled into Florida; or the case of the only known extraterrestrial plant crime. Ultimately, however, Susan Orlean's book is about passion itself, and the amazing lengths to which people will go to gratify it. That passion is captured with singular vision in The Orchid Thief, a once-in-a-lifetime story by a truly original journalist.

Executive Producer: Laura Wilson
Producer: Paul Ruben
Jacket design: Robbin Schiff
Jacket photograph: Lisa Charles Watson
©1998 Susan Orlean
(P)2001 Random House, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Stylishly written, whimsical yet sophisticated, quirkily detached...It shows Orlean's gifts in full bloom." (New York Times Book Review)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.5 (164 )
5 star
 (38)
4 star
 (50)
3 star
 (38)
2 star
 (24)
1 star
 (14)
Overall
3.4 (41 )
5 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
3.5 (44 )
5 star
 (11)
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 (11)
3 star
 (13)
2 star
 (5)
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 (4)
Performance
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  •  
    Linda Tucson, AZ, United States 02-04-13
    Linda Tucson, AZ, United States 02-04-13

    Sericulturalist and horticulturalist, mad scientist and earth oven baker.

    HELPFUL VOTES
    16
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    14
    14
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    3
    0
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Bad Execution, Full of Errors"

    Very bad edting made this a jarring read. Bits were cut off and the narraor read so fast I had to slow the replay to be able to tolerate lisening. The author does not know her botanical subject matter, and this part of the book is rife with error. There is also a marked underone of lack of respect for some of her subjects that in the end does her discredit, not the other way around. I don't think she cared about this book or the people she used , it was just a job, it could have been so much more.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Sydney, Australia 02-13-12
    Amanda Sydney, Australia 02-13-12 Member Since 2011

    Literawesome

    ratings
    REVIEWS
    38
    10
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Absolutely fascinating"
    Would you listen to The Orchid Thief again? Why?

    I am a big fan of the movie 'Adaptation' and always wanted to read the book it was based on. While the book is indeed


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Natalie Surrey, British Columbia, Canada 12-01-11
    Natalie Surrey, British Columbia, Canada 12-01-11
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    24
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Who knew their was so much to learn about orchids"

    Fascinating look at the orchid, from it's origin, reproduction, evolution .... the collectors, the dealers and the "thief" - John Laroche. The details are at times overwhelming but overall it was a great "listen".

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amanda Burke 06-20-06 Member Since 2001
    HELPFUL VOTES
    7
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    31
    6
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Good story, badly read"

    That whiney, cutesy voice just isn’t right for telling this interesting tale. Who chooses the narrator, anyway? Doesn’t the author have any say? Especially when it’s a first-person narrative?

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Cill Morristown, NJ, United States 08-12-10
    Cill Morristown, NJ, United States 08-12-10 Member Since 2007

    Retired systems analyst; Lover of music, art, travel, technology, birds, Caribbean, scuba; Favorite audiobook genres: mystery, biography, travel, humor, fiction

    HELPFUL VOTES
    109
    ratings
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    1900
    18
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    4
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    Overall
    "Good Story, Bad Editing"

    I enjoyed this story but found the narrator tried too hard and read too fast giveing the listener the feeling of being pushed to listen. Also the editor of Format 4 cut words off when putting the chapters together (about 10 times in the first 48 minutes)..this is extremely annoying! Not a progessional production.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Peter Piedmont, CA, USA 01-27-10
    Peter Piedmont, CA, USA 01-27-10 Member Since 2010
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    1
    1
    Overall
    "Great book, OK delivery"

    The reader's jaunty, affected delivery would be far more appropriate for a comic novel than a work of non-fiction. She is aided greatly by the quality of the text itself.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Madison, WI, USA 12-01-03
    Christopher Madison, WI, USA 12-01-03 Member Since 2003
    HELPFUL VOTES
    24
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    23
    4
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    0
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    Overall
    "See the movie,"

    Very boring; no real story, just bits here and there, kinda like reading a dictionary. It pushes you away. However, the movie Adaptation is great, and believe it or not, all of any story in the book is fitted into the movie.

    1 of 5 people found this review helpful
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