The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Talmadge is a loner. He is also an orchardist. His mother brought he and his sister to the orchard when he was only nine years old. He is the only one left. The men and the horses come each year to help with the harvests. Clee, the Indian, has always accompanied the men since he was a child. He and Talmadge have been friends for that long. Now Clee leads the men back to the orchard each year. When Jane and Della appear in the orchard, Talmadge's quite life of solitude among the fruit trees is interrupted forever.
When Jane and Della arrive at the orchard they both are pregnant and will not allow Talmadge near them. He had to lure them in like you would a frighten and abused animal. And abused they had been. He sets out food for them. They watch and follow him at a safe distance. Jane is the elder. Talmadge confides in his friend Caroline Middey about the girls. Caroline is skeptical but assists. The babies come and only one lives, they name her Angelene. Jane is her mother.
Talmadge is a quite character but not a peaceful one. He has a lot of inner turmoil and discontentment. You want Talmadge, Jane, and Della, to be a "happy" family but it can't be due to the horrific and tramatic past events all parties have suffered through. Instead of Angelene being the connective thread she turns into somewhat of a pawn for Talmadge. She is loyal to him. Della, the rebel, is restless throughout the entire novel. Della not only drained Talmadge but, in my opinion, she was a burden on me the reader.
The Orchardist is equally full of extreme beauty and tragedy. The scenes in the orchard allows the reader to escape from all the darkness of the characters. Coplin describes the landscape so vividly that you feel as if you are walking down the rows of plum, apple, and apricot trees. My favorite scenes from the book is the yearly arrival of the horses to the orchard. Like the characters you anticipate their arrival. Words escape me as to how to describe it. During a difficult time in the novel, Angelene gives Della a gift and it was so touching. It was one of those "hidden nuggets" that are in well written novels that the reader may miss if they aren't paying close attention.
Like Twelve Tribes of Hattie, I did not love or hate The Orchardist but I cannot not deny the fact that it is beautifully written. These aren't lollipop characters. They are dark, complex, and haunting. There is also a calmness about them that allows you to enjoy the story. The beginning and ending of this novel is quite enveloping but you can get bogged down in the middle.
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ARC provided by publisher. In no way does this influence my review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.