In the bestselling tradition of The Red Tent, The Family Orchard is a spellbinding novel of one unforgettable family, the orchard they've tended for generations, and a love story that transcends the ages.
Nomi Eve's lavishly imagined account begins in Palestine in 1837, with the tale of the irrepressible family matriach, Esther, who was lured by the smell of baking bread into an affair with the local baker. Esther passes on her passionate nature to her son, Eliezer, whose love for the forbidden Golda threatened to tear the family apart. And to her granddaughter, Avra the thief, a tiny wisp of a girl who thumbed her nose at her elders by swiping precious stones from the local bazaar-and grew to marry a man she met at the scene of a crime. At once epic and intimate, The Family Orchard is a rich historical tapestry of passion and tradition from a storyteller of beguiling power.
The multigenerational history of a family that prospers and falters, blooms and wanes, as do the fortunes of Israel, the country in which it is set, is only a surface description of what Eve accomplishes in this vivid debut. Intensely imagined, at once sensual, spiritual and humorous, an artful mixture of dreams and reality, legend and fact, this impressive novel takes risks with narrative method and succeeds beautifully. Three layers of voices mingle in every chapter. One that begins: "I tell" or "I write" is the voice of a narrator named Nomi Eve, who follows six generations of her family from 1800s Palestine through the creation of Israel to the present day. Factual material about the history of the region, family milestones and the profession of pardesan, or "orchard man," is interpolated in sections introduced by the words: "My father writes...." The most extensive passages in each chapter are from a third-person point of view and weave a bewitching story of love, fulfillment and loss; marriages, births and deaths; privations, war and tragedy. Here the mood is fabulist, verging on magical realism, as myth and legend illuminate the lives of characters placed by fate in a turbulent part of the world. Each generation experiences conflict: with the Turks, the British and the Arabs. The rich characterizations begin with Yochanan and Esther, both from eastern Europe, who marry in Jerusalem in 1837. Their granddaughter, Avra, marries into a Russian immigrant family that has established a small orchard in Petach Tikvah, a town near Tel Aviv, in 1909; that couple's great-granddaughter is Nomi Eve. While Eve has not used the family's real name, it's obvious that her lovingly detailed story is based on autobiographical fact. The city of Jerusalem is a vibrant character in its own right; and the horticultural material is explained with intriguing clarity. Thirty-one linecuts of old prints augment a most unusual novel.