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Book Review: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

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The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin is a novel taking place in Washington State at the early part of the 20th Century. This is Coplin’s first book and is a majestic debut, a new book which reads like an old friend.

William Talmadge had had a hard life, orphaned at an early age and losing his sister mysteriously, he made his living from a successful orchard which draw in all his talents and energy. Talmadge takes in two runaway teenagers, sisters who were both abused and pregnant.

Life is rough in Washington State and Talmadge is repaid for his generosity with a series of events marked with tragedy and violence, as well as a few glimmers of joy.

The Orchardist is a beautifully written and haunting novel, a mood not usually captured by first time authors. The prose is lyrical and the characters enchanting, even though they might not be likeable they grow on the reader and make one invest in their future.

The reason I requested to be on the tour for this book is actually quite nostalgic. Many years ago, what seems like 100 years ago (and unfortunately, what seems like 100 lbs. as well) I walked along the Inca Trail in Bolivia (slightly less famous than its Peruvian counterpart which I walked several weeks later). After a few days we came upon an orchard in the Andes Mountains, ran by a Japanese orchardist (still in Bolivia) who let us stay the night and eat as much fruit as we can.

I also worked in an orchard for a few years, back in Israel–a difficult yet rewarding job which I often view with rose colored glasses.
So you see, my fascination with orchards has been lifelong, the smell of an orange orchard brings a back many sweet memories, I simply could not pass up this book.

The depiction of the land and the frontier landscape are written with clarity and sensibility as well as incorporating the characters within it. The style worked very well for this novel because the people were part of the land, cultivated by it and not the other way around:

“But the next day he stood in the midsection of an apple tree and saw them come meandering down the orchard rows. He continued with the shears in the high branches and watched them indirectly. They stopped down the row from him and sat in the grass.”

The theme of the book, that people don’t get over their losses, is established early on, about a quarter through the book. However the American sense of optimism which everything will work out and good things will happen is always present regardless of the challenges Coplin throws at her characters.

The prose is beautifully written, but at time overly stretched. That being said, the author’s talent shines throughout the book, I certainly hopes she keeps on writing and am looking forward to read many more books of quality from her pen.

Buy this book in paper or electronic (Kindle) format.


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