“There are echoes of John Steinbeck in this beautiful and haunting debut novel. . . . Coplin depicts the frontier landscape and the plainspoken characters who inhabit it with dazzling clarity.” — Entertainment Weekly
“A stunning debut. . . . Stands on par with Charles Frazier’s COLD MOUNTAIN.” — The Oregonian (Portland)
New York Times Bestseller • A Best Book of the Year: Washington Post • Seattle Times • The Oregonian • National Public Radio • Amazon • Kirkus Reviews • Publishers Weekly • The Daily Beast
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.
At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist, William Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were loved ones. A gentle man, he's found solace in the sweetness of the fruit he grows and the quiet, beating heart of the land he cultivates. One day, two teenage girls appear and steal his fruit at the market; they later return to the outskirts of his orchard to see the man who gave them no chase.
Feral, scared, and very pregnant, the girls take up on Talmadge's land and indulge in his deep reservoir of compassion. Just as the girls begin to trust him, men arrive in the orchard with guns, and the shattering tragedy that follows will set Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect them but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.
Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Coplin weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune. She writes with breathtaking precision and empathy, and crafts an astonishing novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in.
The implacable hand of fate, and the efforts of a quiet, reclusive man to reclaim two young sisters from their harrowing past, are the major forces at play in this immensely affecting first novel. In a verdant valley in the Pacific Northwest during the early years of the 20th century, middle-aged Talmadge tends his orchards of plum, apricot, and apples, content with his solitary life and the seasonal changes of the landscape he loves. Two barely pubescent sisters, Jane and Della, both pregnant by an opium-addicted, violent brothel owner from whom they have escaped, touch Talmadge's otherwise stoic heart, and he shelters and protects them until the arrival of the girls' pursuers precipitates tragic consequences. Talmadge is left with one of the sisters, the baby daughter of the other, and an ardent wish to bring harmony to the lives entrusted to his care. Coplin relates the story with appropriate restraint, given Talmadge's reserved personality, and yet manages to evoke a world where the effects of two dramatic losses play out within a strikingly beautiful natural landscape. In contrast to the brothel owner, Michaelson, the other characters in Talmadge's community an insightful, pragmatic midwife; a sensitive Nez Perce horse trader; a kindly judge conduct their lives with dignity and wisdom. When Della fails to transcend the psychological trauma she's endured, and becomes determined to wreak revenge on Michaelson, Talmadge turns unlikely hero, ready to sacrifice his freedom to save her. But no miracles occur, as Coplin refuses to sentimentalize. Instead, she demonstrates that courage and compassion can transform unremarkable lives and redeem damaged souls. In the end, "three graves side by side," yet this eloquent, moving novel concludes on a note of affirmation.
There is a calming effect reading this novel. The action is deliberate, but not frantic. And it may be the orchard that keeps everything rooted. There's work there, and peace, beyond the human drama. I'm eating apples now, thinking about all the activity, sharing with the characters ...
Although the story was engrossing it was much too long.
good and frustrating
I am stumped when I try to comment on this book. The words were beautiful and you get almost a painting in your head of the orchard, the land and the people in it. The story goes deep- but it doesn’t go deep. I was frustrated because as I read it I wanted to ask the characters questions because the writing didn’t go deep enough to answer my questions. There were several possible stories that could have been developed, characters that were introduced that never turned into anything. To explain and develop a character to the inth degree- and then spend the last chapter lightly ending several people’s lives and never letting us know how one of the characters spent her life- did she marry? Did she work or become a mother? Did her deep formation amount to a person of character? I guess I got the feeling that the book was setting me up for the real story but it never came. Writing was beautiful however