At the turn of the 20th 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 from 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 but also to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.
Transcribing America as it once was before railways and roads connected its corners, Amanda 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 in The Orchardist she crafts an astonishing debut novel about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of an ordered life when he opens his heart and lets the world in.
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Beautiful, rich, sweeping tale, not a fairy tale.
"Somebody tell a joke!"
Spoiler alert - my favorite movie of all time was "Moonstruck." And it was so because of lines like this told by a crotchety old man in a very awkward moment. I'm a shmuck for characters and stories like this. No apologies. But I also tread fearlessly into the darker narratives in life (Hell, I'm a military psychologist!) and this book was almost unbearable towards the end. I kept hoping for some denouement; some event or epiphany that would make the suffering and plodding despair worth the hours of listening. Didn't happen. Give us something to ponder, to hold in our hearts, to be rocked off course by. Don't just keep putting heavier rocks in the backpack. OK, Ok, OK. The setting was starkly gorgeous; the storyline complex and compelling. But the lives of almost every single character in this too long saga were about human ugliness, loss, disconnection, alienation, failures, and final yielding to the detached hopelessness of it all. For crying out loud, the only poignancy we were offerred was in the form of a final trite image of whatever life lies beyond because we sure weren't getting any in this life from Ms. Coplin. NOBODY who isn't John Irving (actually my favorite author) should write a book with this depth of unrelieved despair.