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.
Writing with breathtaking precision and empathy, Amanda Coplin has crafted an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in. Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, she weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune, bound by their search to discover the place they belong. At once intimate and epic, evocative and atmospheric, filled with haunting characters both vivid and true to life, and told in a distinctive narrative voice, The Orchardist marks the beginning of a stellar literary career.
Hardcover, 426 pages
Published August 21st 2012 by Harper
ISBN 006218850X (ISBN13: 9780062188502)
About the Author
Amanda Coplin was born in Wenatchee, Washington. She received her BA from the University of Oregon and MFA from the University of Minnesota. A recipient of residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the Omi International Arts Center at Ledig House in Ghent, New York, she lives in Portland, Oregon. The Orchardist is her first book.
Check out the author's website
Like the author on Facebook
His face was as pitted as the moon. He was tall, broad-shouldered, and thick without being stocky, though one could see how he would pass into stockiness; he had already taken on the barrel-chested sturdiness of an old man. His ears were elephantine, a feature most commented on when he was younger, when the ears stuck out from his head; but now they had darkened like the rest of his sun-exposed flesh and lay against his skull more than at any other time in his life, and were tough, the flesh granular like the rind of some fruit. He was clean-shaven, large-pored; his skin was oily. In some lights his flesh was gray; others, tallow; others, red. His lips were the same color as his face, had given way to the overall visage, had begun to disappear. His nose was large, bulbous. His eyes were cornflower blue.And so we introduced to Talmadge, the central character in this story around whom everyone else orbits, like the sun of a distant galaxy.
Most of this book takes place in the orchards of Peshastin, near Wenatchee, Washington.
Did I enjoy the book?
-Yes, most definitely.
Is this the first time I’ve read this author? If so, would I read them again?
-Yes and yes.
Did I like the characters?
-Yes, I loved the characters. I think I especially loved Talmadge, but Della was gut-wrenching, Angeline was likable, and Clee a wonderful stoic tertiary character. I would have liked to have known Caroline better.
Did the cover grab me?
-Definitely. I loved the colors, and the house and orchard and mountains did a wonderful job of portraying the area so important to the story.
Was the ending satisfying?
-Yes, for the most part. It fell just a little flat, but I still found it satisfying.
Do I want to add this book to my permanent book shelf?
-Yes, it will find a spot on my permanent shelf, to stay with me all my days!
Let me begin by saying that I have wanted to read this book since before it was released. I felt drawn to it the moment that I read the synopsis, and the fact that I lived for a time in Washington State and loved the area only compounded my desire. So you can imagine how excited I was to get the opportunity to join this book tour!
Talmadge has been alone much of his life. A lone orchard farmer, he has been on his own since his mother died when he was but a teenager, and his sister mysteriously disappeared soon after. Then one day decades later enter two young pregnant girls, and Talmadge has something in his life outside of the orchard to focus on.
This story was beautifully quiet and reflective, and it most definitely is character-driven. The story could be very still and quiet at times, and it was only the characters propelling it forward.
Talmadge is a very stable, dedicated and committed man. Hardworking, ethical, sober and earthy, he keeps himself apart from the world, both logistically (in his orchard isolated from civilization), and emotionally and psychologically. He is the orchard manifested in human form.
Caroline Middey is a "medicine woman" who was called out to the farm when Talmadge was young. After his mother died, Caroline watched over him and his sister. After Talmadges's sister disappears and Talmadge ages, Caroline becomes a good friend and confidant, and later a surrogate mother to Angeline.
And that was the point of children, thought Caroline Middey: to bind us to the earth and to the present, to distract us from death. (page 124)Clee is one of the Nez Perce that stopover in the orchard a couple of times a year on their way to auction with the wild horses they capture. He and Talmadge become friends as boys, even though Clee is mute and never speaks a word.
Della and Jane enter Talmadge's life as two pregnant children, running in fear from a demon. Della becomes a surrogate wild child to Talmadge, and grows to be a half-feral androgynous woman who never stops running from her demons, and who haunts Talmadge to his death.
I don’t need anything from you. But you do, he wanted to tell her-- you do need something from me. But he did not know what it was. Like her, he did not know what it was. (page 272)Angeline is born on the orchard to one of the girls, and she grows up in the orchard. Talmadge is the only father she's ever known. She is the female version of Talmadge, and the opposite of Della. Quiet and contemplative, uncomplaining and enduring and resigned, she is a gentle soul, yet tough and determined.
She revered solitude, but only because there was the possibility of breaking it. Of communing at last with another. What would happen when Talmadge died? Caroline Middey? Their particular sensibilities would be gone; and with them they would take their knowledge of her. Then she would truly be alone. This was another solitude. It terrified her. (page 414)This story can be heart-breaking at times, and can grab you by the gut and pull you along. It was as if Della became the main plot of the story, with Angeline the sub-plot, and Talmadge was the catalyst through which to present these two plots.
There was a sound coming out of her that frightened her. It was a quiet sound. She touched her face, as if to verify she was still there. (page 308)The setting to this story is everything. Without the orchards, this story couldn't exist. It plays such a central part in the lives of the characters. Talmadge loves the orchards, and Angeline loves the orchards, because she loves Talmadge. Like Talmadge, the orchard is "no part of this world", and holds itself apart from everything else, rarely invaded by the outside.
My final word: Lovely and lyrical. Descriptive without being overly done. Restrained. Carefully drawn characters deep with emotion. This story is a beautiful example of what makes a family: love, commitment, dedication, forgiveness. Family goes beyond blood. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone who enjoys a slow, quiet read.
My thanks to TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be part of this book tour.
master schedule on their website:
Tuesday, March 5th: Book Club Classics!
Thursday, March 7th: Book Snob
Friday, March 8th: Unabridged Chick
Tuesday, March 12th: A Bookish Affair
Wednesday, March 13th: missris
Thursday, March 14th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, March 15th: 5 Minutes For Books
Monday, March 18th: The Betty and Boo Chronicles
Tuesday, March 19th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Wednesday, March 20th: Raging Bibliomania
Thursday, March 21st: Becca’s Byline
Monday, March 25th: Amused By Books
Tuesday, March 26th: A Library of My Own
Wednesday, March 27th: Silver’s Reviews
Thursday, March 28th: Between the Covers
Monday, April 1st: Lit and Life
Tuesday, April 2nd: Paperback Princess
TBD: The Written World
Barnes and Noble
Writing Style: B+
I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel