Published March 2013 by Harper Perennial
Source: my copy courtesy of the publisher & TLC Book Tours in exchange for this review
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.
The Orchardist has been on my radar for some time, but, to be honest, I could only remember, when it was offered to me for review, that it had gotten great reviews. By the time it arrived in my hands, I had no recollection of what the book was about. This generally plays in a book's favor when I sit down to read a book; I usually don't even read the jacket cover.
It quickly became apparent, as I began reading The Orchardist, that there was going to be a tension to the book that I had not expected. I did something I rarely do; I read the publisher's summary. Sure enough, there it was. Ah, I thought, this will be a book that builds to that moment when the men with guns arrive in the orchard. But Coplin wasn't going to make it that easy for me; this is a book that journeys through time, quietly but with an underlying tension that pulls the story along.
The characters are damaged, fragile beings who struggle to deal with their pasts. Talmadge is a compassionate man, but his own grief makes it difficult for him to fully realize his own feelings; the girls are so damaged that they are unable to accept kindness for kindness' sake. My heart ached for each of them. Coplin writes of the way Talmadge tames nature, how the wranglers that come to his orchards tame horse, but it is clear that the people in this debut novel are not so easily controlled.
I was so impressed with Coplin's writing that I didn't even notice until I was nearly finished with the book that there are no quotation marks. What I did notice was her amazing skill in writing about emotion.
"He had pulled out of the grief, eventually - out from under the suffocating weight of it. Suffering had formed him, made him silent and deliberate, thoughtful: deep. Generous and kind and attentive, although he had been that before. Each thoughtful gesture hoping to extend back, far back, to reach his sister, to locate her somewhere."I do feel that this is a book that will stay with me for some time as I consider these characters and what happened to them. It's a haunting novel.
other reviews on the full tour. Thanks to the ladies of TLC Book Tours for allowing me to be on this tour.
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. Find out more at Amanda’s website and connect with her on Facebook.