Philadelphia Inquirer
June 14, 2009:

     Take one part coming-of-middle-age memoir, stir in an environmental storyline, add a dose of gardening, mix in island history, salt with mellifluous Hawaiian words like pueo (owl) and haole (gringo), and you've got a recipe for not only a sweet book, but also a sweet life, the "impassioned life" that each of us searches for.
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Washington Post
June 19, 2009:

     Fleeson becomes much more than the comparatively prim, set-in-her ways Philadelphia journalist she once was... her message is timeless.
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Honolulu Weekly
May, 2009:

     As a work of what might be called contemporary natural history and as a study of the politics of botanical conservation and preservation, Waking Up in Eden is a truly original contribution. It’s also a highly readable one–Fleeson’s prose, like the best journalism, is clean and compelling, and she succeeds brilliantly at laying out a complex set of issues and challenges without ever losing the reader.
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St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press
July 1, 2009:

     Fleeson, whose writing style is warm and friendly, never goes overboard with complicated scientific explanations, and she reveals just enough personal information to keep it all interesting... a lovely book.
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Star-Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul
June 19, 2009:

     The environment in the Hawaiian Islands is one of the most endangered on the planet, and Fleeson takes us on a sensual journey of the island, and of her life.
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ForeWord Magazine
July-August, 2009:

     Waking Up in Eden is more than simply memoir or adventure tale. Fleesons account is both a refresher course in history, sociology, and anthropology, and a wake-up call to those who care about conserving the earth’s endangered flora and fauna. Included are commentaries on topics as diverse as Hawaii itself: Darwin’s theory of evolution; the bombing of Pearl Harbor; the formation of archipelagos; fossils remains from the Kauai sinkhole; Hawaiian culinary history; the influential, gay Allertons of Chicago; and wild, celebrity-filled parties held at the Allerton Gardens on Kawai. Waking Up in Eden is a book for the Renaissance person who enjoys savoring an experience, even vicariously, and the gardener who revels in cultivating beauty.
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National Geographic Traveler
June, 2009:

     With a reporter's skill for unearthing and explaining complicated histories and a travel writer's keen eye and ear for the illuminating detail, Fleeson . . . paints a multi-faceted portrait of Paradise.
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Publishers Weekly
May 18, 2009:

     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 green 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.


Booklist
May 1, 2009:

     Fleeson could see the handwriting on the wall: big changes were coming to the metro newspaper where
she’d worked hard to build a solid career, and it seemed wise to get out while the getting was good.
Fleeing to Kauai to become the chief fund-raiser for the beleaguered National Tropical Botanic Garden,
she found herself plunked down in the middle of paradise, which turned out to be not quite the utopian
sanctuary one would imagine. Her boss was a mercurial whirling dervish of ego and ambition, her
accommodations were rustic and remote, and the island’s fragile habitat was more threatened than she ever
imagined. Confronted with overwhelming evidence of the alarming rate of plant extinction caused by
nonnative species invading Kauai, Fleeson becomes a tireless champion of its salvation. As she delves
deep into the island’s history and ventures far into its delicate ecosystem, Fleeson undertakes her own
personal and professional salvation, a spirited and daring pilgrimage that is both revelatory and
enlightening.
                — Carol Haggas

Kirkus Reviews
April 15, 2009:

     Journalist Fleeson fashions a new life for herself at a Hawaiian botanical garden.
     When the bean counters took over the Philadelphia Inquirer, the author knew her days were numbered. She nipped a potential midlife crisis in the bud by accepting an out-of-the-blue job offer to become a fundraiser for the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) in Kauai, Hawaii. Gardening had always been a passion of hers, and here was a chance to make an impact. As her new boss and friend, colorfully irrepressible botanist Dr. Bill Klein, said, “It’s the nature of gardeners to take these disasters and improve on them.” He might have been speaking of Fleeson’s life, but he was actually referring to their task of getting the NTBG back on its feet after many moribund years and a devastating hurricane. Fleeson sets forth in appealingly bald language the events of her days: learning the ropes at work, delving into the history of the botanical garden, maintaining her love life, pursuing the island’s more telling stories. She downplays her emotions but doesn’t scant the intimacy of her role as participant, chronicling missteps aplenty while she negotiates her way through the cultural pitfalls of both her new job and Hawaiian society. Fleeson’s descriptive talents come to the fore as she summons the pungent dilapidation of her surroundings and the drama of the landscape, “a fertile universe, primordial and undisturbed.” She shows finesse in making vest-pocket stories of her investigations: the controversy over native vs. exotic species, Isabella Bird’s Hawaiian sojourn, the role of plate tectonics in Hawaii’s geology, profiles of the men whose estate became the NTBG and island biogeography and extinction. Additional subjects include death, politics and eating mangoes in the nude.
     A surviving-middle-age story that artfully blends the intriguing world of natural science with the theater of human foibles.


Earth Friendly Bookworm on Lime.com
June 4, 2009:

     During her time on the island, she shares what she learns from conservationists, plant hunters, and scientists as she educates herself on preserving the local flora. Her writing chronicles the way she works through both her personal and professional struggles, indicating that by the end of her stay she probably agrees with her boss’s motto: gardens are for growing people.
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