A NovelBook - 2012
At once intimate and epic, The Orchardist is historical fiction at its best, in the grand literary tradition of William Faulkner, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, and Toni Morrison.
In her stunningly original and haunting debut novel, Amanda Coplin evokes a powerful sense of place, mixing tenderness and violence as she spins an engrossing tale of a solitary orchardist who provides shelter to two runaway teenage girls in the untamed American West, and the dramatic consequences of his actions.
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"Set in the untamed American West, a highly original and haunting debut novel about a makeshift family whose dramatic lives are shaped by violence, love, and an indelible connection to the land. You belong to the earth, and the earth is hard. At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, a solitary orchardist named Talmadge carefully tends the grove of fruit trees he has cultivated for nearly half a century. A gentle, solitary man, he finds solace and purpose in the sweetness of the apples, apricots, and plums he grows, and in the quiet, beating heart of the land--the valley of yellow grass bordering a deep canyon that has been his home since he was nine years old. Everything he is and has known is tied to this patch of earth. It is where his widowed mother is buried, taken by illness when he was just thirteen, and where his only companion, his beloved teenaged sister Elsbeth, mysteriously disappeared. It is where the horse wranglers--native men, mostly Nez Perce--pass through each spring with their wild herds, setting up camp in the flowering meadows between the trees.
One day, while in town to sell his fruit at the market, two girls, barefoot and dirty, steal some apples. Later, they appear on his homestead, cautious yet curious about the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, Jane and her sister Della take up on Talmadage's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Yet just as the girls begin to trust him, brutal men with guns arrive in the orchard, and the shattering tragedy that follows sets Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect them, putting himself between the girls and the world, but to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past."
Amanda Coplin is a born storyteller. The story of the Orchardist is poignant and compelling, covering a nearly 20 year span at the turn of the 20th century. William Talmadge is a loner in his fifties who has been alone for over 30 years on his orchard. When 2 feral, pregnant teenagers begin skulking around the orchard and stealing his fruit he slowly works to create a relationship with them much against the advice of his good friend from town, Caroline Middey. What unflods is a story of love and longing.
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