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the-orchardist

At the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, an orchardist named Talmadge carefully tends the grove of fruit trees he has cultivated for nearly half a century. A gentle, solitary man, he finds solace and purpose in the sweetness of the apples, apricots, and plums he grows, and in the quiet, beaAt the turn of the twentieth century, in a rural stretch of the Pacific Northwest in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, an orchardist named Talmadge carefully tends the grove of fruit trees he has cultivated for nearly half a century. A gentle, solitary man, he finds solace and purpose in the sweetness of the apples, apricots, and plums he grows, and in the quiet, beating heart of the land. Everything he is and has known is tied to this patch of earth. It is where his widowed mother is buried, taken by illness when he was just thirteen, and where his beloved sister Elsbeth mysteriously disappeared. It is where the horse wranglers pass through each spring with their wild herds, setting up camp in the flowering meadows between the trees.One day, while in town to sell his fruit at the market, two girls, barefoot and dirty, steal some apples. Later, they appear on his homestead, cautious yet curious about the man who gave them no chase. Feral, scared, and very pregnant, Jane and her sister Della take up on Talmadage's land and indulge in his compassion. Yet just as the girls begin to trust him, brutal men with guns arrive in the orchard, and the shattering tragedy that follows sets Talmadge on an irrevocable course not only to save and protect the girls but to reconcile the ghosts of his own troubled past.Writing with breathtaking precision and empathy, Amanda Coplin has crafted 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. Transcribing America as it was before railways and roads connected its corners, she weaves a tapestry of solitary souls who come together in the wake of unspeakable cruelty and misfortune, bound by their search to discover where they belong. At once intimate and epic, evocative and atmospheric, filled with characters both vivid and realistic, and told in a distinctive narrative voice, The Orchardist marks the beginning of a stellar literary career....

Title : The Orchardist
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ISBN : 9781470827816
Format Type : Audiobook
Number of Pages : 12 Pages
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The Orchardist Reviews

  • Will Byrnes
    2019-06-01 14:23

    Let’s state it up front. This is a GREAT book. Not a pretty good book with some nice qualities, but a powerful, beautiful, thoughtful and incredibly moving work of art that will be read for generations. The Orchardist is even more incredible for being a first novel, the best first I have read since Edgar Sawtelle. Yes, that good.Talmadge had lived forty years in the orchard without any exceptional event happening to him, barring inclement weather or some horticultural phenomenon. Nothing to speak of in the human realm, really. And then this happened. He had had a tough time of it. After the mining death of his father in 1857, when he was nine years old, his mother traveled with him and his sister, Elspeth, north and west until they found a suitable piece of land in what is now Washington State. There they set up a farm. Three years later mom passes, and Talmadge and his one-year-younger sister are left on their own to run it. Oh, and toss in a bout of smallpox that he manages to survive a few years later. A year after that, at the ripe old age of 17, his sister takes off. Some childhood. When we meet Talmadge he is well into middle age. One day while at the market with his produce, he spots two filthy teen-age girls stealing some of his apples and everything changes.Talmadge is a man who has lived most of his life alone. With the arrival of these girls he sees a chance to have what he always wanted, a family. But they are toting more than just hunger and the bulges in their young bellies. The girls had had a particularly difficult youth, orphaned very young, ill used after, and their fear makes it difficult for them to accept Talmadge as someone they can trust. They take up residence on his land. He takes care of them as much as they will allow. When the man from whom they are fleeing arrives, events take a very dark turn.The core story of the novel is Talmadge’s struggle to save one of these runaways from the darkness both without and within, what he gains, loses, experiences and learns. You will love him. He is a good, good man, trying his very best in extremely trying circumstances. He will spend the rest of his life trying to do right by the young lives that have been placed into his hands, despite their resistance. Maybe in doing this Talmadge is doing what he hoped someone would have done for his long-vanished sister. One of his charges travels a similar path, searching always for that connection to her lost one. He has two amazing friends. Clee is a mute Nez Perce who Talmadge has known since arriving, and Caroline Middey is a local healer, a sort of big sister for him. The depiction of Talmadge’s friendships with Clee and Caroline is rich and incredibly moving. Coplin has made many of her subsidiary characters come alive. The text is sewn with descriptions of small pieces of this verdant and sometimes harsh world. These passages glow, capturing the vibrant beauty of the land, the affection the residents have for it and the depth of their connection. Coplin has a gift for description. You can feel the warm sun on your skin, the breeze brushing past your cheek as it ripples fields of grassHe did not articulate it as such, but he thought of the land as holding his sister—her living form, or her remains. He would keep it for her, then, untouched. All that space would conjure her, if not her physical form, then an apparition: she might visit him in dreams, and tell him what had gone wrong, why she had left him. Where did she exist if not on earth—was there such a place?—and did he want to know about it, if it existed? What was a place if not earthbound. His mind balked. He was giving her earth, to feed her in that place that was without it. An endless gift, a gesture that seemed right: and it need never be reciprocated, for it was a gift to himself as well, to be surrounded by land, by silence, and always—but how could this be, after so much time?—by the hope that she might step out of the trees, a woman now, but strangely the same, and reclaim her position in that place.The land itself is family. There are other manifestations of this connection between people and nature. The Nez Perce deal in horses and one of the girls becomes enamored of these animals the way Talmadge is bound to his orchard, seeing in the horses the same presence of a lost loved one that Talmadge sees in his land. Coplin, whose parents owned orchards in the Wenatchee County where her novel is set, knows of what she describesIn my family, which is somewhat nontraditional (some of us are related by blood, some not) there is a history of domestic violence, and sexual and substance abuse. When I was growing up, only some of this was known to me—I sensed it without understanding what it was—but what was immediately before me, what was right in front of my face was the immense beauty of the landscape—orchards, wheat fields, forests—and people who did not hurt me, but loved me very much and were affectionate and kind. These elements—a child’s half knowledge of a painful family past, and sensitivity to the physical landscape—formed the book.There is such sadness here. We feel with Talmadge the loss of his sister, and it is hard not to choke up even when recalling this, long after having read the book. There is also the fire of hope that Talmadge guards, nurtures, that offers light by which to steer his course. He travels a hard road to find what he wants, needs, to give what he can, what he must. You cannot read this book without coming to feel for this man, and to admire the skill, and clearly love, with which he has been crafted. I thought of The Old Man and the Sea, except in this case the fish the old man is trying to bring home is a lost soul of a young woman, who is in danger of being consumed before he can get her to port. Coplin, though, says that her models were Faulkner and Toni Morrison. I leave it to those better versed than I to go into detail on those comparisons.There is beautiful mirroring in use here. Talmadge is searching for some peace, denied him as a child, while the young woman he wants to help is searching for a peace of her own, so long denied her by the guilt she feels for a decision taken when she was still young. Both Talmadge and his charge keep their thoughts and feelings to themselves. A scene in which horses are broken reminds a runaway of how people were broken in her earlier experience. Silences pervade in this remote place. Talmadge’s mother had preferred quiet to almost anything, and Talmadge acquired the trait. Clee, of course, does not actually speak at all, and we learn that Elspeth had difficulty speaking as well. The two runaways also speak little.There is an existential theme that permeates. Where does one’s self leave off and everything else begin?There was no wilderness to lose oneself inside. She touched her face in the dark: she had her self. But then, she thought, her self was nothing. She was nothing.LaterA gentle wind, a kind of sighing, moved over the earth; and for a moment he felt as if his body had evaporatedAnd again when she was alone, when she was working, it was as if she forgot about herself. It seemed strange to state it this way but it was as if she had no outline, no body, even though the work was very physical. Where did her mind go? Her mind was steeped in the task at hand. At such times she felt a depth of kinship with the earth…There are events that take place towards the back end of this tale that some readers might find a bit of a stretch. Would this person go that far to achieve the desired end? Maybe, maybe not. But it did not detract from the whole for me. The Orchardist is not just a moving portrait of a remarkable man, but a look at how people relate to place. Not so long ago, I walked with my youngest through a particular stretch of Greenwich Village recalling events from a lifetime ago. This happened here. That happened there. An event took place in that building on the corner that changed my life. This is where I first set eyes on… I did this and such there. I told her that these streets and buildings held ghosts that called to me, “remember,” connections I cannot imagine abandoning for another locale. I get this connection to land, even if my orchard consists of wood and concrete structures and city streets rather than sylvan swaths, and bears a spectral fruit that only I can consume. I imagine most of us have similar experiences, history and place entwined in memory, sealed in, and maybe emerging from a particular patch of earth. Talmadge’s attachment is probably much more intense than many of ours, but it will resonate, I expect, for most. The Orchardist tells a sometimes harsh and more times beautiful story. You will care. Definitely have some tissues at the ready. This is a great one and you will not want to miss it. =============================EXTRA STUFFCoplin's site does not really add muchAC reading from the bookA video interview with the author from "AM Northwewst."Reading Group guide from LitLovers8/17/12 - A review in the Washington Post should post a spoiler alert, but if that is not a problem for you the review is quite lovely.8/23/12 - Another glowing review, this one from NPR's Jane Ciabattari, -A Lyrical Portrait Of Life And Death In The Orchard3/7/13 - Amanda Coplin wins the Discover Great New Writers award for fiction from Barnes and Noble

  • Lizzy
    2019-06-01 09:27

    SPOILER ALERT - This was a slow, luxurious read for the first 200 pages. I was steeped in the landscape, the time period, the characters and enough of a plot to keep me turning the pages. The writing was deceptively simple at times, almost staccato in rhythm, yet highly evocative and well-matched to the rural setting of the book. I was captivated by Coplin's beautiful prose and her instinct to reveal just enough about her characters but never too much inner detail, as if seen through a veil. However mid-way the novel climaxes and the reader is left wondering what 200 more pages is going to add to the experience. The answer is: not much. I did finish out of a sense of duty and a vague expectation that more would be revealed in the latter half, or that the plot would take a hairpin turn of some sort (though the pace was steady if not plodding throughout). Perhaps that is the way life is, unexceptional, dull even at times.It certainly isn't fair, and that is more than represented in The Orchardist. But this book could have used a little more plot, especially on the back end. That is, ultimately, the reason I read: to hear a good story, well told.p.s. (7/16/13) at one point I developed a theory that would have made the book more interesting I think: what if Jane and Della were really Talmadge's nieces, the missing pieces to the puzzle of where his sister had disappeared so many years ago. What if his sister had been snatched by Michaelson and brought to his brothel, where she gave birth to Jane and Della who eventually escaped and found their way to Talmadge, in a karmic kind of completion. Full circle. THAT would have made the last 200 pages zip along.

  • Julie Christine
    2019-05-21 12:38

    It is a rare read that cuts through the surface noise of daily life and becomes the one sound you can hear clearly, like a church bell on a still winter morning. It commands your full attention and you willingly shut out the world and surrender to the power of its images, characters and the force of its story. Amanda Coplin’s debut novel, The Orchardist, is one such book. Set in the early years of the 20th century in the golden valleys and granite hills of Chelan county in north-central Washington state, The Orchardist is a fierce and poetic story of the Northwest frontier. William Talmadge, the orchardist, has led a secluded, solitary life since he was a young man. Orphaned in early adolescence, he and his younger sister Elsbeth, worked on their own to build and maintain acres of apple and apricot orchards in the Wenatchee Valley. When she turns sixteen, Elsbeth vanishes. Whether she is taken or disappears of her own volition is a question that will haunt Talmadge as the century turns and he enters the later years of his life. Talmadge provides refuge to two young women who appear in his orchard one day, filthy, starving and pregnant. By inviting them into his home, he opens the door to great tragedy and profound love. Talmadge is a nurturer – it is an undeniable facet of his character that he seeks to repair what has been damaged by neglect or abuse, whether it is sapling or a human heart. But, as Talmadge learns, even the most tender care, the strongest scion of love and compassion, cannot heal all wounds. Coplin’s prose is exhilarating. She composes with quiet confidence, her narrative rich in period detail. And although she describes ugly circumstances– the suffering of women trapped in desperate conditions, a time when deprivation and disease swept through communities with shocking regularity – she writes with such empathy and beauty that the heart is reminded to hope. And the heart is rewarded. And it is shattered. Coplin’s writing is uniquely and brilliantly her own, but a few favorite authors came to my mind while reading The Orchardist: Toni Morrison, for her evocative and dark period pieces and haunted women; Ivan Doig for the warmth of his characters and his passion for the West; Kent Haruf for his restraint and gentleness; Tim Winton for his truth-telling about the complicated nature of family. I always hold my breath when encountering a familiar setting or terrain in a book: will the author have a feel for the place, its light and colors, its scents and temperatures? Will she follow the undulations of its land and the shapes in its cities? Coplin, a native of the Wenatchee Valley, not only conveys the beauty of the sage-steppe of the Cascade mountain foothills, the gold of its valleys, the shimmering glory of its aspen forests and glacial lakes, she erases the damage wrought by the past one hundred years of development. You are taken to a time when the air and water were so pure, the land so unscathed, that you cry in homesickness for a place you never really knew. The names from my home, Wenatchee, Cashmere, Ellensburg, Methow, Walla Walla, Chelan, Okanogan, Stehekin, Dungeness, are renewed and flow through this novel like poetry.This is one of those novels I want to carry around to show everyone, to bring up in every conversation even tangentially related to reading or the Northwest. I cried when I turned its final page. I wept for the characters, for the past, for the gift of reading sentences so beautifully and thoughtfully constructed. I reckon this will be my top read of 2012. Brava, Amanda. Thank you.

  • Diane S ☔
    2019-05-23 09:38

    I loved absolutely everything about this book: the cover, the setting, the prose and the characters. That this is a first novel is staggering. Talmadge has lived alone for forty years, after the death of his mother and the disappearance of his sister, tending his orchards and giving a free pass to the wranglers and Indians that come onto his land with wild horses. His characters is stoic, strong, he is someone who always tries to do the right thing and he is someone I would love to meet in real life. Two young pregnant girls appear and they will be the catalyst for one of his greatest joys but also the cause of much sorrow. The beauty of the orchard is sharply contrasted with the violence that eventually comes his way. Although the subject and the tone verge on the melancholic , the novel is so beautifully written , the descriptions of the land, with the orchards so alive that this novel genders much admiration rather than depression. There are so many quotes I could choose from this book but this one is one of my favorites. "Her hair gathered at her neck, its color in the lantern light like a young oak. How like the orchard she was. Because of her slowness and the attitude in which she held herself - seemingly deferent, quiet - it appeared even a harsh word would smite her. But it would not. She was like an egg encased in iron. She was the dream of the place that bore her, and she did not even know it."I truly did not want this book to end and wish I could read it again for the first time.

  • Tom
    2019-06-14 06:36

    The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin marks the debut of a talented new American writer. But midway through the novel I paused and asked myself, why am I reading this? Is it believable? Coplin’s spare, post-modern prose was controlled and the voice unique. The setting—the dry eastern slopes of the Cascade Mountains at the turn of the 20th Century—was also unique and evocatively rendered. The characters possessed a timeless, mythic quality as if carved from stone, and the story itself, as one book blurb described it, felt as if it were the subject of an old folksong. But for me the book seemed somehow flawed.Coplin invents a time and place shaped more by her own imagination, by her own emotions toward the curious world she conjures, than by the historical record. She failed to persuade me that her invention was anything more than a romantic hallucination.One can argue that all history is a re-imagining, a re-visioning of the past. But history relies on testimony—new facts, or overlooked facts, but always something factual from the record. Fiction needs no facts, and may even be harmed by them. But if a writer places a story within the historical context, can the temporal facts, any more than the laws of physics, be disregarded? When a writer imagines a story in turn-of-the-century Washington that behaves like a gothic romance in the vein of Wuthering Heights, as Amanda Coplin does, am I, the reader, to accept this as a poetic truth? (Mind, being compared to Bronte ain't bad, but let's face it, her book, which was such an original hallmark of the Romantic movement, would be just another bodice ripper today.)In a Seattle Times interview, Coplin acknowledges that she wholly invented the heinous crime that launches her story. Her main character, Talmadge, the orchardist, seems ageless and monolithic in his solitude, silence and fixed compassion—archetypal perhaps, yet hardly historically authentic. Coplin’s other characters, the feral sisters Jane and Della for example, seem no more real except in the raw emotions that propel them. And the villain, described in the New York Times as “an evildoer of spaghetti-western proportions,” suffers from a similar lack of verisimilitude.Even the land Coplin so evocatively conjures—the canyon orchards and pine forests—assumes a virtual reality. Like the heath in Hardy’s novels or Bronte’s moors, the terrain becomes a stage set, despite the inclusion of real place names.As I read on I kept asking myself, what am I to glean from this well-written novel? Am I to revise my historical perspective of the western frontier? Coplin’s post-modern style might imply that. Am I to view her characters as American archetypes? Their unchanging, stone-like nature might imply that as well, and the orchard setting seems primed for a parable or allegory. But, if so, about what?As you can see, I had trouble putting my finger on the problem I had with a book I nonetheless enjoyed reading. So I compared it to other books.Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian came to mind. Written in an equally spare, modern style, it is equally evocative of the western terrain, with equally fixed, archetypal characters. And if ever there was a book conjured from an author’s imagination, Blood Meridian is it. But the truth coursing through Blood Meridian comes from a historical fact—the existence of the scalp-hunting Glanton gang—and from the thematic postulate supported by its epigraph (from a real newspaper article): that killing is the natural state of man. Is Coplin arguing that mute nurturing is our natural state? Without some historical basis, I don’t buy her argument. The story rings false, fanciful, and the inherent tragedy seems contrived—the stuff of gothic romance.Coplin mentions the influence of the great Australian writer Patrick White, in particular his novel Voss. I wish she had studied White’s even better novel, The Tree of Man. White conveys the same physical and emotional isolation she does, but he avoids imagined evil and its sensational consequences; his book remains grounded in the lyrical truth of historical experience and expands because of it.Marcel Proust believed a single book does not allow us to know an author. Only through multiple books can we distinguish what is book-specific from what is distinctive about the author. Curiously, McCarthy’s first novel, The Orchard Keeper, suffers from the same post-modern gothic excess as The Orchardist. I look forward to Amanda Coplin's next book in order to see what is truly distinctive about her vision. I believe she is capable of work as original as McCarthy's and as luminous as White’s.

  • Margitte
    2019-05-29 09:47

    Random notes:-- A blended family in which marriages never played any roles;-- Lonely, orphaned people who landed up taking care of each other;-- Good people being treated badly; bad people being treated good;-- The sadness of time sweeping over history and destroying evidence of lives lived and loved;-- Plum conserve with walnuts and raisins for the long winter days;-- Apples, pears, walnuts, apricots, vegetables and horses;-- An ode to loneliness in the richest tones imaginable. -- A story about women and all their complexities. -- A lonely man with a golden heart and an unlovable physique.-- Children: Their purpose being to bind us to the earth and to the present, to distract us from death.-- An introduction with this quote: " The roses you gave me kept me awake with the sound of their petals falling. - Jack Gilbert.Main characters:TalmadgeAngeleneCaroline MiddeyCreeDella and Janet MichaelsonIt is a tale of three graves on a mountain plateau, under a prehistoric cottonwood tree - with its small silver-green leaves that flashed constantly in the wind. It was the only tree on the plateau that was not a fruit tree. The plateau was the place where the yellow grass waved in the wind and the air smelled of honeysuckle and duff...... " writing silence over an overarching bigger silence. Insects were percolating in the grass in their private and intimate murmurings. The sun on the porous bank where she stood was lit up, incandescent, the minerals glittering and the dull mud peculiar and particular even in its dullness. Each pore and streak and detail was washed and brought forth as is a person's face by the light."It is a tale of:women with mother's instinct with no children; women without mother's instinct with children; and a woman with mother's instinct and children.It is the tale of a lonely man who tried to take care of all these women crossing his path as best as he could. I can imagine the orchards in the mountains, so remote and perhaps isolated, that nobody, apart from Talmadge ever wanted to live there and prosper. His mother brought him, as a nine-year-old boy, and his sister, Elsbeth, to this remote place, 1857, fleeing a former life in the north-central portion of the Oregon Territory, where his father worked in the silver mines. "She craved a solitude that verged on the violent. A solitude that forced you constantly back upon yourself, even when you did not want it anymore. She wanted a place that would absorb and annihilate her."After establishing them in the deserted cabin in the mountains, his mother died on them in 1860. His sister would stay until her wings were strong enough to fly. Elsbeth Colleen Talmage left to never return. 1865 it was.Two orphaned girls stole apples from his wagon, one day in town. That was after he lived on his property in the mountains for forty years without any exceptional event happening to him until that day. They had enough emotional and physical baggage to fill up several lifetimes for normal people. Fate had a hand to play in the card game dealt for Talmaged and his spread of land. Ms. Caroline Middey, the herbalist in town, could not determine the outcome, but she was able to anchor this lost man in his own tale of loyalty, integrity, friendship and loss . For him, love arrived in different forms and flourished under totally different names. He was a master orchardist. A man who knew how to deal with sapplings of his outstanding apple, plum and apricot trees. He kept constant watch over them, building wooden latticework to support them during their precarious adolescence. Some of his experiments failed, were destroyed by weather or circumstances. Others, however, flourished ... In the beginning there was Talmadge... The ending was Angelene ...This can be regarded as a Kent Haruf-noir novel. Realism underscoring imagination; painting womenhood in shades of gray; using manhood as the canvas on which the fairy tale stick figures pirouette to different rhythms of the brush, bringing different color nuances to the final painting, set against the plateau. The prose is picturesque and atmospheric, intense and metaphoric. A very very good read indeed.

  • Dem
    2019-05-31 09:24

    The Orchardist is beautifully written and stunning debut novel by Amanda Coplin. I was really impressed with this book. It isn’t a fast paced novel by any means; it is more character-based than plot-based but the characters and sense of place are so exquisitely written that I did not want this book to finish.Set at the turn of the century in a rural stretch of Pacific Northwest, a reclusive orchardist by the name of William Talmadge tends to apples and apricots. A gentle man who spends his time among his fruit trees when one day two teenage girls appears and steals his fruit from the market place. What transpires changes Talmadge’s life forever.First of all, so glad I bought this book in Paperback and not downloaded to my kindle as the cover is stunning and really sets the scene for the novel. This is one of those books you want on your bookshelf. Having recently finished East of Eden by John Steinbeck I found coplin’s prose just as fresh and compelling and would certainly see how if you liked East of Eden you would enjoy the characters and pace of the Orchardist.I especially loved the sense of time and place of this novel and I loved the detailed descriptions of the land and Talmadge’s work as an orchardist on the frontier. While this isn’t a light novel I at no stage found it depressing. This is a story about loss and yearning and deals with some tough subject matter but I never felt Coplin dragged the story down with unnecessary graphic or ugly scenes.This is a well written, slow paced, character driven novel with a storyline and characters that are fresh and complex. A well deserved 5 star read for me.

  • Carol
    2019-05-29 08:35

    This is a gorgeous book…powerful, moving and beautifully written with a spare, eloquent writing style similar to Kent Haruf, one of my favorite authors. The story takes place in Washington State at the beginning of the 20th century…yet in tone, it reminded me so much of Haruf’s novel, Plainsong, which was also lean and lyrical. Talmadge, a quiet, compassionate and solitary man attempts to befriend two feral and pregnant runaway girls, Della and Jane, who were orphaned very young and shaped by horrific abuse afterwards. Basically, the story is about his intense connection to his orchard and also his attempts to love, care for and protect these two damaged women and one of their offspring, Angeline. Angeline’s “father-like” relationship with this wonderful man was so touching for me. The love between Talmadge and Angeline throughout their years together was a prominent theme in this novel. I found myself relating to the adult Angeline when she returns to the orchard to view the graves and reminisce under the old Cottonwood tree. She remembers that old Cottonwood tree as so much larger. I was reminded of one summer when I drove by my old childhood home in a tiny, Eastern Colorado town. That home was so much smaller than my recollection and now looks rather forlorn. I was saddened to see the old trees gone. It was hard to believe that such a small and modest home held so many rich and wonderful memories for me. This author conjured up those same familiar memories once again. I was persuaded to read this book because of all the glowing reviews on GR. I feared that I might find it a dull slog but it was as compelling for me to read as any thriller.

  • Michael
    2019-05-23 14:26

    I loved the balance between reflection and emotional engagement in this tale. The sense of connection between working the land and creation of a bridge to save the human heart. It makes me hold a fancy word on my tongue—‘luminous’. It appears apt for how the universal shines through the particular in the book’s clear prose, how the natural world is cast in a clear light, banishing the dark shadows of life to a compost of the soil.This is the story of Talmadge, an unmarried orchardist in the Wentchatee Valley of central Washington State at the end of the 19th century. At the beginning of the tale, he is in his 40’s, living a pretty lonely life, but blessed by two particular friends. One is a herbalist and midwife, Caroline Middey, and the other a Nez Perce named Clee, who comes through each year with captured wild horses from the mountains to break and sell.From the beginning, we learn how grief shapes Talmadge’s life. His father died when he was a child, leading his mother to travel with him and his sister to find a better life. They end up taking up residence at an abandoned homestead where they begin a life growing and selling apples and apricots. After she too dies while Talmadge is a teenager, he and his younger sister continue to develop the farm as resilient orphans. It is a third loss which haunts Talmadge the most, the inexplicable disappearance of his sister. This book starts with two teenaged runaway girls stealing apples from his fruit stand and later food from his home. Rather than driving them away, he extends his protection—and his heart. They are pregnant and fearful of a man they are running from. When that fear becomes tragically realized, Talmadge tries his best to forge a solution for one of the girls, Della, to guide her toward the life of an orchardist. But she has too much distrust in people, and her restlessness, as wild as the horses she becomes transfixed by, leads her to a rootless searching life beyond his reach. Instead, Talmadge invests himself in the precious task of raising the child Angelene.Coplin’s skills in evoking a sense of place and how the rhythms of farm life bind one’s spirit are illustrated by this sample about Talmadge from the beginning of the book:He regarded the world—objects right in front of his face—as if from a great distance. For when he moved on the earth he also moved in other realms. In certain seasons, in certain shades, memories alighted on his like sharp-taloned birds: a head turning in the foliage, lantern light flaring in the room. And there were other constant preoccupations he likewise half acknowledged in which his attention was nevertheless steeped at all times: present and past projects in the orchard; … trees he had helped to plant; experiments with grafting and irrigation; jam recipes; cellar temperatures; … how to draw bees.It is remarkable for a writer so young to be so wise about the ways of grief:Suffering had formed him: made him silent, 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. …It had happened so long ago; he had continued with his life, accepted her absence. This was what he told himself, and it was partly true. But other times even his flesh was sensitive to the air, and what could have befallen her—and what she had suffered—tortured him. The litany of possibilities always hung about him, and during periods of weakness he turned to it, scrolled through it; amended some possibilities, added others. Della’s captivation with the wild horses is beautifully rendered in these sample passages:It took a long time. By the time Clee was finished the horse was shivering, brimming with wildness just contained. Its flesh, and the air around its flesh, was primed with the energy of corroded nerves, of that which would not be dominated having miraculously been dominated.…She dreamed of them: the horses in the field. She dreamed of horses in the mountains at dusk. She dreamed from the perspective of a horse: running in a valley of dry grass, searching for yellow mountain daisies to eat. The chevron of the herd. The screaming on the high passes with other mountains in the background. Della woke from these dreams with her heart beating fast, often in the dank cold of the toolshed. Sometimes after these dreams, she discovered she had wet herself.As with the decades of nurturing it takes for his trees to reach fruition, Talmadge achieves a wonderful fulfillment in Angelene’s development, as expressed so well here:Her hair gathered at her neck, its color in the lantern light like young oak. How like the orchard she was. Because of her slowness and the attitude in which she held herself—seemingly deferent, quiet—it appeared even a harsh word would smite her. But it would not. She was like an egg encased in iron. She was the dream of the place that bore her, and she did not even know it.Wild horses drew Della by the wildness within her (can't help picturing young Scarlett Johansson in "The Horse Whisperer")My sense is that the core of the story is about the healing power of love. How when your soul is damaged through losses in your own life, you have a particular stake in the fate of the young who have also experienced significant misfortune. But then you have to eventually let go to allow them to succeed or fail to find their own way out of the darkness. One’s hope then looks to the next generation to make use of what you have built in this world. Despite such themes, there is nothing sappy and sentimental in Coplin’s rendering. Instead, the rewards of reading this comes off like a cross between Steinbeck and Cormac McCarthy, with both a broad vision of our connections to nature and a restrained rendering of interior mental efforts to make meaning out of what life deals us.

  • Marita
    2019-05-18 08:28

    In The Orchardist a lot is said by not being said. I was struck by the silent, intuitive communication by the protagonists. It started with Talmadge’s childhood friend Clee: ”It did not seem to matter, then, that Clee could not—or did not—speak. There was no deficit in their relationship, no lack.” Talmadge finds himself alone in the world after (view spoiler)[ his sister’s disappearance. (hide spoiler)] Alone in the silence of his vast orchard, until the arrival of Jane and Della, two pregnant teenagers who of necessity have developed a fear and dislike of men: “Men were, by definition, untrustworthy.” "The men were there to trade with, and to perhaps fear; but not to like for the sake of themselves. And, this also went without saying, they were definitely not there to be loved.” But Talmadge, an honourable man who deeply misses his sister, takes them in without exacting payment of any kind. He very quietly gives them space and silently provides food and shelter and melts into the background.Unfortunately more tragedy follows. Talmadge, with the help and advice of his pragmatic friend Caroline Middey, takes in and raises baby Angelene. A beautiful, tender relationship develops between Talmadge and the child. His relationship with the emotionally damaged Della is however more difficult. ”The girl’s mind, her thoughts, eluded him.” Della also thinks about communication “Now the horses—somehow, some way—increased the possibility of communication.” But regarding Talmadge, ”He did not know then that she did not need words from him, that she would do what she wanted regardless of his opinion.” And it is Della’s actions that cause him to never lose a certain air of distraction and to eventually suffer from terrible feelings of unfounded guilt. And it is young Angelene who steps up to wordlessly comfort and protect him. An Angelene who appears to be fragile, but who is strong. “She was like an egg encased in iron." "She would never say that she loved, because they did not use that type of language; they did not say “love,” for instance, or “beautiful,” or any descriptive language at all. At times, commenting upon the sky at dusk, he would call it “pretty,” and she would nod her head, once, in agreement. When she entered a room that he occupied, or he entered an orchard row in which she worked, they did not greet each other with words but touched an appendage of the other with their eyes, and could tell by the other’s expression or posture if they were pleased or discomfited or bothered, or if they were sated by the day’s weather or by the other’s presence. They intuited these things about each other as one decides about one’s own body: thoughtlessly, organically.”"The silence and darkness of the forest were extraordinary.”

  • Tania
    2019-05-29 06:35

    We do not belong to ourselves aloneThis is a beautiful, evocative novel. The writing is slow and eloquent. The orchardist is in many ways reminiscent of three of my best-loved books - Blessings, The Poisonwood Bible and The Snow Child. In all of these stories there's a marked focus on the land. So much so that the landscape almost becomes one of the characters.The author is also more concerned with the emotions behind an action or choice, than the action or choice itself. Her descriptions of feelings are powerful, even though they are always understated.He did not expect her to be happy - how that word lost meaning as the years progressed - but he only wished her to be unafraid, and able to experience small joys.The story: At the turn of the twentieth century, in a remote stretch of Northwest America, a solitary orchardist, Talmadge, tends to apples and apricots as if they were his children. One day, two teenage girls steal his fruit at the market. Feral, scared and very pregnant, they follow Talmadge to his land and form an unlikely attachment to his gentle way of life. But their fragile peace is shattered when armed men arrive in the orchard. In the tragedy that unfolds, Talmadge must fight to save the lives of those he has learned to love while confronting the ghosts of his own troubled past. The Orchardist is an astonishing and unforgettable epic about a man who disrupts the lonely harmony of his life when he opens his heart and lets the world in.

  • Renata
    2019-06-11 14:46

    I will never forget Talmadge, he of the giant heart, nor his orchard in Washington those long ago days, or the wild horses, or the sturdy generosity of Caroline Widdey, Clee, the Judge. Della's story almost made me stop several times and not return. And I wonder how Angeline carved out the rest of her life. I'm very glad I read this beautiful, tragic, hopeful novel written in some of the most tangible descriptive language ever to speak to all of my senses. Coplin's prose is so dense and richly multi-sensory that as a reader I felt I walked that land, climbed those trees, felt and heard the wind,was dazzled by sunlight streaming through the foliage, and heard the chair move as they pushed it aside to eat the food I could already smell while in the orchard. A treasure of a story I am thankful to have read. Many thanks to Elyse, especially, for encouraging me to read it sooner than later.

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry
    2019-05-30 11:34

    ** January 16, 2018 -- I re-read this book for our book club and am reminded why, more than 5 years ago, upon my first read, this book became one of my all-time favorites. I have nothing to add to my original review below, as the book still gets to me. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.**This is a literary debut unlike any I’ve read – not ‘easy’ by any means, with lengthy, often poetic sentences broken up by lots of dashes and nary a quotation mark for dialogue. But it works – and oh does it work (I am not generally a fan of toying with grammar; I typically find it gimmicky and become quite cranky with rule-breakers). But not in this case. No, not at all – as it seems to visually portray the organic, flowing and uninterrupted nature of a story with characters closely tied to the natural environment.And then there’s this indisputable fact: The Orchardist ‘breaks your heart without you even realizing it as you read’ (This from a Twitter conversation I had with another reader, Skyler Hawkins). Aside from portraying the outdoor environment with wonder and awe – avenues of apples and apricots, rolling hills, tumbling creeks – the author is a master of characterization through action. There is no “telling” in this book or broadcasting of emotions, or overly sentimental interior monologues. We see, through actions and mannerisms alone, the deep pain of what is essentially a cast of ‘misfit’ characters who really struggle with expressing emotions: the old man Talmadge and his friends Catherine Middey and Clee; the broken, pregnant girls Jane and Della; and Jane’s daughter Angelene. The emotional construction of the characters in The Orchardist is phenomenal.That this story takes place in an orchard at the turn of the twentieth century is not lost on the reader: it’s a place of life and growth, bounty, pruning and care – but it’s a tough place to carve out a living, with harsh realities: agricultural pests, frost, death, heartache and loneliness. To me, this was largely a story about miscommunication and its consequences (We’ve all met those people who communicate without words, silently, introverted, misunderstood. Yet, somehow – with her words, not the character’s – Coplin has illustrated the awkwardness of this communication). This is also a story about the lasting scars from past emotional and physical wounds and the lengths at which people will go to heal those wounds or, conversely, gloss over them as if they never existed … all in the name of self preservation. It’s hard to believe this is Amanda Coplin’s first novel, because the symbolism is wonderful, from the taming of wild horses to the cultivation of growing things. I’m not sure I’ve read a story with such complicated, flawed original characters. I also believe this to be one of the best examples of “nature as character” I’ve ever read; Coplin’s ability to create tension and set mood through setting is remarkable. If you’re not afraid of literary novels that delve into dark topics and offer a glimpse at heartbreak and hope, this is a must read. This novel will have me thinking for a long time to come.

  • Annie
    2019-05-16 09:35

    I won this book from goodreads first reads. Why do people read books? I don't know about you but I read to either escape to someplace or time different from my own or to learn something. For most people I know this why they read.Then why do I keep coming across books with such disturbing themes? Why on earth did the author think anyone would enjoy reading about fictional child prostitution? A man drugged out on opium offered a very young child to an old man. Completely disturbing. I don't even want to read the true story of someone who has escaped from that. It's just too sad. As a preschool teacher, who enjoys the company of children sometimes even more than adults I don't want to think about someone harming children. Who enjoys that? I know the topic provides background for the behavior and actions of the two girls Jane and Della but I wish I hadn't won the book.I am hoping all that's over so I am going to keep reading because it is well written.I just couldn't make myself finish this book. It is just to sad without any hope. It didn't help that I did not enjoy the style of writing. It is not so horrible that I can not understand how others could enjoy it; this book is just not for me.

  • Jeanette
    2019-05-23 09:40

    Amanda Coplin sets THE ORCHARDIST in central Washington, the region in which she spent her youth. Her knowledge of its history, geography, architecture, and especially its people, draws us into the beauty and ugliness of life in the Wenatchee area around the turn of the 20th century. William Talmadge is a man of quiet tenacity. He has lived alone for forty years, nurturing his fruit trees and living by the simple rhythm of the seasons. His orchards are his anchor, and he needs little else but the companionship of Caroline Middey, the midwife and herbalist who lives down the road. Talmadge is well on his way to old age when he discovers two pregnant girls living on his property. Sisters Della and Jane were orphaned and abused, and are rightfully mistrustful of men. They behave like feral animals, circling and watching, darting in to devour the food Talmadge leaves for them before disappearing again. Eventually he earns a measure of their trust, and they allow him to care for them after a fashion. But still they are not safe. The man from whom they escaped is on the hunt, and tragedy looms. Through his relationship with the girls and their offspring, Talmadge learns that sometimes all the love and self-sacrifice in the world is not enough to repair a damaged spirit. Della is bent on self-destruction and revenge, and Talmadge pays a price for his deep and persistent concern for her well-being. Coplin's writing is the polar opposite of purple prose, restrained to a degree that sometimes left me wishing for richer descriptions and greater emotional depth. Higher highs and lower lows would let us know the characters more intimately and feel more connected to their experiences. Stylistic choices notwithstanding, Coplin's prose displays a careful polish. When I started this novel, it felt like I was going to spend forever getting through it. About 75 pages in, I finally connected with story and style, and read long into the night. Eight years in the making, THE ORCHARDIST will garner much-deserved acclaim for new novelist Amanda Coplin.

  • Nancy
    2019-06-14 09:30

    I have been thinking a lot about this book since I finished it, waiting to write about it. It is quite extraordinary. The beginning in particular for me was totally mesmerizing. I could have stayed forever suspended in time in the orchard, sleeping on my side in the long grass in the sun among the apple and apricot trees. I don't think I've read in a long time a writer who captures, and holds, time like this. The whole book is drenched in it, but particularly the beginning of the book, when we are in the orchard with the reclusive, quiet Talmadge and the two "feral girls" who have escaped something horrific that we only find out about by degrees and who have taken asylum in Talmadge's grove of fruit trees. The writing is beautiful. It has a spare lyricism to it. As the book continues, it gathers weight. To me it felt like Greek tragedy, with its themes of love, loss, fraught relationships, pity, fear, fate, and inevitability - and Talmadge a kind of tragic hero. A beautiful book.

  • LeAnne
    2019-06-12 12:40

    I'm not a patient enough person to have liked this period book after its midpoint as well as it seems most others have. It is beautifully written, really, but its plodding pace ground me down after the first excellent half. The characters didn't grow or appear to learn much from their errors, so that last bolus of chapters - where I had high hopes for some type of resolution - just deflated for me. The atmosphere is one of sadness; the kind that Sisyphus-like stories can engender. When in novels we bump into a character that repeatedly and unsuccessfully tries to accomplish something, I can manage that for a certain time period, but my own personality draws me up at a certain point. When more than one character illogically bangs their heads against a collective wall, I disengage. That is what happened here. I do not do collective futility well. The protagonist is a good guy. A really, really good guy - zero faults, unless we could say that he possesses kindness to a fault. There are two other main characters who are also too perfectly angelic for me to have regarded with much sense of them being real. The villain too was cartoonish, and his loathsomeness sputtered. On the good side, this felt a little bit like Lonesome Dove with an aging gent and the beautiful countryside being front and center. There was one big surprise before the midpoint that kept me reading on, but in hindsight, I wish I'd given up the ghost and moved on to something with either deeper characters or an intriguing plot. For a much better story set in farmland and with a family facing turmoil try I WILL SEND RAIN by Rae Meadows. I liked the story and will be on the lookout for more from the debut author who has solid descriptive skills.

  • Elyse
    2019-05-29 06:52

    I LOVED THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!! I'm so excited to go hear to the author speak tonight in our area. I have tons of questions I'd ask her if possible, (I wish tonight were a 'book-discussion' rather than a book 'intro' >>> for selfish reasons of course... (having read it) I was swept away reading "The Orchardist". I'm actually a little in 'aw'. (First book? Amazing!!!) Master storytelling!!!! Master Writing. (I love the 'clean' writing style of Amanda Coplin). Even the page at the end of the story: 'acknowledgments' was interesting to me. It, too, was 'very clean'....(not sappy, just very 'clear'). I could take a few lessons from this woman. Glorious landscape: ( visuals smells & taste) Most books with chat of food don't do much for me one way or another ---(but maybe it was 'THE-choice-of-FOODS' Amanda *picked* (ha ha--no pun intended: apples/apricots), that got my mouth watering. Many other other delicious meals were prepare throughout the many complexities of the deeper story itself, too.Gotta wonder, Does Amanda Cook, too? I like her food choice! I'd have dinner at her house! :) Heck, I'd have her at 'my' house for dinner!THE CHARACTERS are UNFORGETTABLE.....(you can see into their souls)SURPRISES: YES.....(several)I'll say again: I LOVE THIS BOOK! (very special)

  • Doug Bradshaw
    2019-05-27 07:47

    George R.R. Martin — 'A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies, said Jojen. The man who never reads lives only one.'I don't know if any of you have seen the German movie, Sonata for a Good Man, but The Orchardist is the story of one such person. A very very good man. Prepare to live in another life and reality that is set back in time about 150 years where life is harsh and survival is a day to day thing. Get ready for hardship, loss of family, sacrifice, hard work, harsh weather along with small doses and love from friends. And walk in the shoes of one of the finest, honest, hard working people you will ever meet. There's a little McMurtry here, a bit of "These is my Words" there, some Jim Harrison story telling excellence and just amazing, sometimes poetic writing, never told too quickly, often profound and extremely touching without ever becoming corny or silly. Brace yourself for an outstanding read. I'm so happy Michael, Beth and Susan, friends here on Goodreads, gave it such great reviews and ratings.

  • Claudia
    2019-05-16 09:35

    Erstklassiges DebütDieses Buch hat die größten Chancen bei mir unter die Top 3 2016 zu kommen.Ich wage jetzt einfach mal zu sagen: "Wer "Stoner" gemocht hat, wird auch dieses Buch lieben."Es geht hier um William Talmadge, der schon früh seine Mutter verliert. Als nach ihrem Tod auch noch seine Schwester Elsbeth beim Beeren suchen spurlos im Wald verschwindet, quälen ihn schwere Selbstvorwürfe. Er ist einsam, immer ist Elsbeth in seinen Gedanken."Irgendwann kam er unter dieser Trauer, unter ihrer erdrückenden Last wieder hervor. Das Leiden hatte ihn geformt, ihn schweigsam gemacht und vorsichtig, bedachtsam: tiefgründig. Großherzig, freundlich und rücksichtsvoll, obwohl er das auch vorher schon gewesen war. Mit jeder bedachtsamen Geste zielte er weit zurück und hoffte, seine Schwester zu erreichen, sie irgendwo aufzuspüren"Eines Tages tauchen auf seiner Obstplantage zwei schwangere Mädchen auf. Jane und Della, Schwestern. Sie beobachten Talmadge zunächst aus der Ferne, klauen ihm Obst und halten sich fern von ihm. Es gelingt ihm, ihre Zuneigung zu gewinnen, indem er für sie kocht und die Teller draußen hinstellt. Talmadge forscht nach, was es mit den beiden Mädchen auf sich hat und kommt so einem Verbrecher auf die Spur.A. Coplin beschreibt sehr behutsam die Annäherung zwischen dem einsamen Talmadge und den traumatisierten Mädchen. Sie erzählt auf berührende Weise und mit einer sanften und poetischen Sprache. Man erlebt mit, wie Talmadge nach einer langen Zeit der Trauer und Einsamkeit wieder zurück ins Leben findet und innere Bindungen zulässt.Ein von Anfang bis Ende bewegendes und spannendes Buch über das, was im Leben wichtig ist. Und dass es sich immer wieder lohnt aufzustehen, auch wenn der Fall noch so tief ist.Ich freue mich schon auf den nächsten Roman der Autorin. Ganz klar: Ich bin im Coplin-Fever.:)

  • Cheri
    2019-06-14 14:46

    Talmadge’s story begins with loss. Loss of his father, then a few years later, his mother, followed still early in his years by the loss of his sister whose mysterious and unexpected disappearance haunts his days. He carries the sadness with him through his days like a toddler carries his favorite blanket, rarely letting go of it, feeling incomplete without it beside him. Days are spent in the orchard, tending the trees, or the occasional trips to town to sell his fruit. With the one unmarried female he knows, each shares in maintaining the comfortable distance between them, neither seeking more than friendship. It is in the Orchard that he sees the two girls, Jane and Della, for the first time. Their faces and bodies covered with filth and their bellies swollen, Talmadge keeps his distance, giving them time, food. Hoping to gain their trust. The days that follow build slowly one on the other, and in due course their budding hopes in a new life allows a word or two, their trust grows, as does his understanding of the life they endured before finding the Orchard. Even when relaying their troubled history, Coplin focuses on their inner courage and strength to endure while allowing their damaged essence to be seen.The Orchardist is a gorgeous first novel, Coplin’s writing is sweet, hypnotic and filled with the beauty and grace of an era so different from our own and a life lived with a quiet determination to live and love others unselfishly. I wanted to crawl inside and close the covers.

  • Michael
    2019-06-05 13:41

    I really wanted to like the book -- the setting was great, and the characters were interesting. The plot, however, never achieved coherence, breaking down entirely after a point and finishing with one of the most pathetic endings I have ever had the misfortune to read. The prose, while solid, lacked the brilliance necessary to sustain interest as the narrative meandered to its unfortunate (although by the time it arrived, welcome) close. The author has a talented imagination and good descriptive skills that will serve her well in future. Through the first half, I was alert to the possibilities and wondered where she was going with the story (King Lear in the orchard? A prose version of Wordsworth's "Michael"? Orchard as the Garden of Eden? Heidi in Washington?). Unfortunately, she spent the second half leading us through the wilderness (it only seemed like forty years) and delivered no promised land at the end of our wanderings. No matter how much effort goes into the planting of an apple tree, it may fail to bear an abundant harvest. A novel is much the same. Fortunately, neither orchardists nor novelists must stake their reputations on a single tree or a single book.

  • DeB MaRtEnS
    2019-06-16 08:30

    Very dreamy, lyrical novel, the pace and character of which is intimately woven into the landscapes, the seasons, the unrelenting hardship and loneliness of a settler's life in Washington in the late 1800s through to the 1920s. The area around Wenatchee, Washington is beautifully evoked, as is Lake Chelan and the early years of the fledgling fruit industry as it grew to the large apple export industry it would eventually become with modern transportation options. On Talmadge's orchard, he is left alone with his thoughts and responsibilities until two violated runaway girls steal food from him, and overturn his carefully ordered life. The cast of characters' words to one another, sparse as they are, merge into their unspoken thoughts, unseparated by notation or grammatical punctuation and seem to be as substantial as the weight of apples, or worry or the passage of time. The Orchardist is an ode to love. It is a refrain acknowledging the risks to taking chances - on seedlings which might or mightn't prosper or to opening your heart when it might break but nevertheless holding steady with caring no matter the cost. The novel drags a bit mid-way, but it is a character-driven and descriptively wrought tale, and it moves itself back on to its sure, hard path, ending not with drums and a marching band, but quiet contemplation. An eloquently beautiful, tragic and human story, pensive literary fiction to savour. Four strong stars.

  • Carol
    2019-06-04 09:32

    I felt this book started out great, but I lost interest very early on. Story just never seemed to go anywhere throughout most of book, and character's somehow just didn't connect for me. Author also seemed to repeat same conversations which made the book long and boring.Anyway, it's 1860 when Talmadge, age 12 and his sister Elsbeth, 11 are left to fend for themselves in an orchard in the Pacific NW after their mother's death. (view spoiler)[Five years later, Elsbeth leaves the cabin to collect herbs in the forest and never returns. A grieving, lonely Talmadge works hard to cultivate the orchard growing apples and apricots selling them at market. When two scared, starving pregnant teenage girls (Della and Jane) show up in the orchard, Talmadge decides to feed and help them even locating their abuser. Afterward, Della runs off and Talmadge raises Jane's daughter, Angelene referring to her as "the girl"? The premise of the book is that Talmadge feels bad about losing Elsbeth and tries to be Della's savior since he feels he let her run off, but it just falls short for me even after he risks his life to save her. (hide spoiler)]

  • Judi Anne
    2019-05-18 12:51

    Just one more chapter, I would promise myself and then I would read two, three or four, making myself late for some other activity or sleep. I couldn't stop reading this emotionally intense, gripping tale of William Talmadge who loved and tended his orchards with devotion in early 1900s rural Oregon. One day, two ferrel young and pregnant girls appeared to be hiding on his vast property and that is the day his life changed forever. Without hesitation or question he took on the role of their protecter and saved them from the life the were running from. He took them in and asked nothing of them except to allow him to give them refuge. Just as the girls were beginning to trust him, a group of men with guns appeared and challenged their way of life. The tragedy that remained bound the survivors together for life.To say much more about this novel would be to gush and I'm not the gushing type but I will say that this stunning piece of literature, by a first time author, completely satisfied my yearning for the perfect novel.

  • Karen G
    2019-06-13 13:25

    This is a very good book, beautiful writing, I just loved the main character Talmadge who had led such a lonely life until two young girls (sisters) appeared on his land.

  • Jill
    2019-06-09 11:42

    Amanda Coplin was born to write and her debut book, The Orchardist, is an achievement. Set at the turn of the twentieth century, the book initially focuses on a solitary man named Talmadge: a man who nurtures apples, apricots, and plums from the land and mourns the death of his mother and disappearance of his sister who vanished with barely a trace. His life is very predictable until one day, two barefoot, filthy, and visibly pregnant teenage sisters appear.The description of the runaways – and Talmadge’s steady attempt to earn their trust – is, in a word, mesmerizing. I rescued an abused dog a couple of years ago, and I couldn’t help but make the comparison: the girls are wild and feral and untrusting and gradually creep closer and closer to the sustenance and humanity that Talmadge offers. But soon, an event that is out of Talmadge’s control take a dark turn.Talmadge “had moved slowly all his life. He was used to seeing things drawn out by themselves, by temperature and light, not by harsh action. But this was something different. This was how people lived, now.” The rest of the book deals with the aftermath of that event: Talmadge’s striving to preserve and support his nontraditional family including an extraordinary daughter of one of the sisters. There is a distinctive narrative voice and pacing here that mirrors nature itself: at first, it feels like you are running the perilous rapids as the characters test themselves against the maelstrom of danger. It is literally impossible to tear away. Then, the tone shifts and it’s almost as if you’re meandering down clear and calm waters; nothing much happens except for the passage of time and internal growth. And then, you’re thrust again into the swirling waters.That is a mixed metaphor, of course. At its core, the book is about reaping what you sow, about the stalwartness of the land as the capricious inhabitants struggle to make sense of life, about picking and preparing and harvesting the seeds that you plant, and perhaps most rewardingly, about the goodness of one man in the face of a sometimes non-caring world. It is also about how the land nurtures us every bit as much as we nurture it; every character is shaped in some way by the physical landscape. And if, from time to time, the characters seem inconsequential, it is because they are mere players on its stage. If this is Amanda Coplin’s first novel, it’s hard to imagine what she will do in the future.

  • Mmars
    2019-06-04 13:36

    Just finished this and I am drained. Drained! So glad I wasn't reading the last 100 or so pages on public transportation. I sobbed. Literally. I was sobbing. Really haven't been hit this hard by a book in a long, long, time. First off, the story wasn't flawless. There were a few elements of the story that seemed to stretch possibility. But I am more than willing to overlook them given the sheer awe I feel over this being a first novel. Here's why.- Point of view. Masterful. Coplin presents a scene in flowing conversation from one character's viewpoint and in the next scene presents a different character's POV. How interesting to compare what was said, what was thought but not said. As in real life, conversations were remembered differently. In many ways this book was about memory and how the characters treated it. Nearly all the main characters had survived traumas and I was fascinated in how these shaped their approach to relationships (or lack of relational skills.) - Unique story. Really. I have never read anything like it. I won't summarize. Everyone else does that amazingly well. - Descriptive ability - especially setting/sense of place. The last chapters were especially vivid. - Characterization. I always marvel that there are GRers who decide they don't like a book because they don't like the characters. If that's you, STAY AWAY from this. There's some unlikeable people here (just as in real life.) BUT - Talmadge had more love in his heart than such readers could ever have. He just couldn't express it. He cared so much, but he made mistakes because he couldn't understand. The runaway girls baffled him. It made him ever so human. He was such a gentle soul. - Following character development of Della. I don't want to give anything away and won't say much more.Deserving of a broad audience. Booksellers - hope it catches on. A must read.

  • Judy
    2019-06-13 08:29

    The Orchardist tells the story of lonely Talmadge, the orchardist, a man deep-seeded in grief from the loss of his beloved sister who mysteriously disappeared. Talmadge's life is turned upside down when two runaway sisters begin stealing apples and food from him. Although I never fully got accustomed to the writing style, the story was compelling and I felt the author portrayed atmosphere exceptionally well in spite of the aloofness of the storytelling.Here is an example of the writing chosen not so much for what it conveys of the story but so you can see the texture and feel it.You-all lost? he called. They looked away at the trees. The shorter one - younger one, he decided - held her mouth open and panted slightly. Their faces were filthy. Even from where he stood, he saw their arms discolored from dirt.As you can see, there are no quotation marks or anything to denote that someone is speaking. Its all written like two people are sitting on a porch and one of them is telling the other about a conversation he had while in town. This is why I remarked that I never quite got used to the writing. Also, the writing style puts a lot of distance between the writer and reader, but somehow it fits this book well. I think Amanda Coplin writes exceptionally well for a first time author and commend her on not following the style of so many new writers who over-metaphorize and overly describe every sensation in their books. Coplin's writing feels natural and I like that.I think this book would make a good book club selection or buddy read because there is so much that could be discussed in relation to why things were done the way they were, how much the early environment of a child effects decisions and points their ultimate direction and so much more. There are a lot of points I would love to discuss but this review would be full of spoilers. The book contains interesting contrasts, all the characters are slightly mysterious in that you never feel like you know them completely. To some degree this annoyed, but more so it left an aura of mystery that left the characters unpredictable and that kept me reading. The only mystery I felt truly should not have been left hanging was (view spoiler)[ what happened to Talmadge's sister. There are some hazy clues in the beginning but no satisfactory answers. Since this was the background behind his sympathy and patience with the sisters I felt it should have been explained. I felt cheated by not being given more information about this event. (hide spoiler)]Hence, The Orchardist receives a solid 3.5 stars from me and a hearty recommendation to my book club friends.

  • switterbug (Betsey)
    2019-06-01 10:36

    In this understated and emotionally raw novel of a family born as much from choice as from blood, debut novelist Amanda Coplin explores themes of love, loyalty, courage, compassion, revenge, and honor, as well as the lifelong, traumatic impact of both childhood abuse and loss.The novel opens with orchardist William Talmadge, a tall, broad-shouldered and solitary man who is composed of the most steadfast moral fiber and potent vulnerability of almost any protagonist that I can recall in recent (new/contemporary) literature. After his father died in the silver mines of the Oregon Territory when Talmadge was nine, he came to this fertile valley at the foothills of the Cascade Mountains (Washington State) in 1857 with his mother and sister. Within the next eight years, he suffered from smallpox, his mother died of illness, and his sister later disappeared in the forest, never to return. This is Talmadge's story, and the saga of his chosen family, borne from the blood of loss and abuse.Two young pregnant teenagers, Della and Jane, enter Talmadge’s life in his middle-aged years. They steal fruit from him at market, where he sells the apricots, apples, and plums from his sweeping acreage of crops. A bit of a touch and go, cat and mouse game ensues, as they follow him home, hide, and emerge when they are hungry, only to scamper and scatter away again, staying close to the edges of his property. Talmadge gradually gains, if not Della and Jane’s trust (they have a harrowing history of ritual abuse), then a tentative acceptance, and they become inhabitants of the orchard, living alongside Talmadge. He becomes their loyal benefactor.If I give any more of the plot progression, it will proceed into spoiler territory. The story bears its fruit gradually, almost meditatively, during the first two sections (135 or so pages). There are eight sections in all, but some are long and pensive, and some short, at times just a few pages. The middle sections compress the years into thumbnail sketches without losing its stirring effect on the reader. The story is told in a quiet and nearly oblique manner, yet without being detached. The overall effect is powerful, and it rumbles fiercely, and menacingly, at intervals, without open sentimentality. The characters evolve delicately, with contemplative subtlety.“Through glances she had caught various features—his nose, the set of his shoulders, the striking color of his eyes. But he had one of those complicated faces that one had to consider at length to understand how emotion lay on it, to understand it at all. It was like a landscape: that wide and complicated, many-layered expanse.”The land is essential to the story—the planting of seeds, the cultivation, and the harvest. The orchard is Talmadge’s lifeblood, and a ripe motif for the burgeoning love he has for the family that has germinated from the edges of his vast plantation. Nature and nurture merge, and the repository of grief yokes to the deep basin of humanity and from there, the kernels of love grow and reproduce.At times, as I reflect on the ending, I am troubled by the author’s choices, but so goes the cycle of life in its order and perplexity.