“With impeccable research and flawless prose, Chevalier perfectly conjures the grandeur of the pristine Wild West . . . and the everyday adventurers—male and female—who were bold enough or foolish enough to be drawn to the unknown. She crafts for us an excellent experience.”
From internationally bestselling author Tracy Chevalier, author of A Single Thread, comes a riveting drama of a pioneer family on the American frontier
1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck – in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appleseed so they can cultivate the fifty apple trees required to stake their claim on the property. But the orchard they plant sows the seeds of a long battle. James loves the apples, reminders of an easier life back in Connecticut; while Sadie prefers the applejack they make, an alcoholic refuge from brutal frontier life.
1853: Their youngest child Robert is wandering through Gold Rush California. Restless and haunted by the broken family he left behind, he has made his way alone across the country. In the redwood and giant sequoia groves he finds some solace, collecting seeds for a naturalist who sells plants from the new world to the gardeners of England. But you can run only so far, even in America, and when Robert’s past makes an unexpected appearance he must decide whether to strike out again or stake his own claim to a home at last.
Chevalier tells a fierce, beautifully crafted story in At the Edge of the Orchard, her most graceful and richly imagined work yet.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
At the Edge of the Orchard brims with passion. Tracy Chevalier, author of the bestseller Girl with a Pearl Earring, takes us back to the late 19th century, to the godforsaken backwaters of Ohio known as Black Swamp. There, James and Sadie Goodenough and their five surviving children live a harsh existence, scrambling to protect their apple orchard from the encroaching wilderness, stretch out their meagre supplies and fend off a deadly fever. Like their surroundings, the elder Goodenoughs are unpredictable and violent. Chevalier shifts among different points of view to spin this gripping tale, which eventually tracks the couple’s youngest son as he gets swept up in the California Gold Rush. Like the best historical fiction, this novel transported us to a different time and place, making the present fade away.
Chevalier may not be able to trump her wildly successful second novel, Girl with a Pearl Earring, but her eighth outing is a compelling showcase of 19th-century American pioneering spirit in which a family from Connecticut struggles to establish an apple orchard in the swamplands of Ohio. James Goodenough can trace his family and his beloved Golden Pippin apples back to England, though he seeks his own future away from his family's farm. The story of his adventure going west unfolds from his point of view as well as from that of Sadie, his contentious wife, a tough woman with a wild libido and a hankering for applejack. True-life figure John Chapman (aka Johnny Appleseed) plays a role in the Goodenoughs' fortunes, as does British plant collector William Lobb, who becomes a key figure to James and Sadie's youngest son, Robert, when circumstances force him to flee Ohio and make his own life on the West Coast. Against a backdrop of family travails in Ohio and personal revelations in California come intriguing facts about apples, such as their division into "eaters" and "spitters" (used for apple cider and applejack), as well as how American pine trees, redwoods, and Sequoias were painstakingly introduced to England. The author's insightful observations about domestic life and the pull of relationships bring depth to a family story that inevitably comes full circle in a most satisfying way.
Customer ReviewsSee All
At the Edge of the Orchard
This held my interest so much that I didn’t even realize it was ending! But then it was finished - and I was so sad! I’m looking forward to a sequel!? It would be so easy to carry the story into England with the trees. Finish with the story of Robert (whom I loved!) and Molly and the babies! Did the trees, in fact, make the journey? How was the trip for Robert and Molly? Rough? Did the babies make it??? So many questions!! Please!! :-/ And Thank You! :-)
Cut Open Heaven
Very intriguing book with angelic voices.....