Some books shout at you to get your attention, some books are all plot and suspense and herd you to the end. Some books are just talk–characters talking about themselves or about other characters about who they are and why they are the way they are. But sometimes you find a quiet book, a book that quietly tells a story about a time and a place and some people who struggled and lived and loved. The Orchardist is such a book and it is a surprising, soulful and tender book that reminds me of Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead series or the Plainsong series by Kent Haruf
William Talmadge, came to this remote part of Washington in the early 1900s after a mining accident killed his father. With his mother, somewhat unhinged by the death of her husband and his younger sister, they stake out a claim to some land with a few apple trees and begin to plant an orchard. After his mother dies and his sister disappears, Talmadge remains on the land, lovingly tending his trees, taking the apples and apricots into town to sell and planning what varieties to plant next. It is a solitary life and Talmadge, although aware of his loneliness, carries such a burden of regret and guilt over his sister’s disappearance that it prevents him from connecting with others in meaningful ways.
Then one day he sees two young women, both pregnant, on the edge of his fields. When he tries to approach them they run away. Slowly he tries to build their trust in him by leaving food on his front step or leaving baskets of fruit on the edge of the field but they are skittish and wary and will not trust him. But Talmadge persists and slowly breaks through not only their resistance, but his own by choosing to take care of them and keep them safe, a decision that has lasting consequences that even he could not foresee.
This is a debut novel by Coplin and yet she writes with such quiet authority that you feel as if you are in the hands of a much more experienced writer. She writes lovingly of the land, and the fortitude and strength of those early settlers who had to wrest a living from an inhospitable and dangerous landscape. Talmadge is like many farmers who I have known, a man of few words, giving his full attention to the tasks he must complete and tending to the tools he must use. Uncomplicated but deep we learn through Talmadge the weight of grief, the despair of not knowing, and the regret for words that should not have been spoken. We also see the possibility of new life, a new shoot grafted unto an older tree and the pain, sorrow, hope and promise that it brings.
I hope to read more by this promising young writer!
Brenda’s Rating: *****(5 out of 5 Stars)
Recommend this book to: Sharon, Marian and Keith
Book Study Worthy? Yes!
Read in ebook format