Set in the late 1800s and turn of the century, The Orchardist is about a lonely man, who grows apple and apricot trees on his orchard in the Northwest United States. Talmadge lost his dad at young age and then his mother when he was 15. Soon after, his sister disappeared without a word. Years later he still agonizes over what happened to her and morns the loss of his only remaining family.
When two girls steal apples from Talmadge’s cart in town and later show up on his property, he has an undeniable urge to help them.
Della and Jane have escaped a rough life with an abusive “father” (Michaelson may or may not be their actual father. He owns a sort of child’s brothel). The sisters are pre-teens and are both pregnant. Talmadge nurses them back to health with the help of his friend, Caroline Middy. Though the girls escaped Michaelson’s hell, they are far from safe. Michaelson is looking for them.
The subject matter reminds me of The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, because of the focus on descriptions of the land and how people are connected to it. The land is a major part of the book, especially how it will be divided after Talmadge’s death and how it changes over time with technological advancements.
The land is an important part, but family and human interaction is another big part. Talmadge is pretty bad at saying what he wants to say or even knowing how he feels about things. But he has a fierce sense of loyalty and protectiveness toward all of the women in his life, who are all so different. Della is a wayward soul, who chases thrills. Anglene is a homebody and a land lover after Talmadge’s own heart. And Caroline Middy is a smart, stubborn but caring, older lady. The range of characters that Amanda Coplin was able to encompass is vast. She includes Native Americans, townspeople, prisoners, country folks, etc. In addition to her varied characters, Coplin is a master of miscommunications, unspoken understandings, and confused and misplaced emotions.
The Orchardist is a joy to read! The suspenseful story kept me turning pages, but there was far more to it than that. The time period is such a fascinating one for orchardists and farmers in America. It was on the precipice of the Industrial Revolution going mainstream, which would change everything, including how Americans grow food, harvest, and sell it.
This book is beautifully and simply written, but in no way simplistic.
About Amanda Coplin
Amanda Coplin was born in Wenatchee, Washington. She received her BA from the University of Oregon and MFA from the University of Minnesota. A recipient of residencies from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and the Omi International Arts Center at Ledig House in Ghent, New York, she lives in Portland, Oregon.
Check out The Orcharist on Goodreads.
Other blogs on the tour:
Tuesday, August 21st: Cold Read
Wednesday, August 22nd: BooksAreTheNewBlack
Thursday, August 23rd: nomadreader
Monday, August 27th: Man of La Book
Tuesday, August 28th: West Metro Mommy
Thursday, August 30th: girlichef
Monday, September 3rd: A Room of One’s Own
Tuesday, September 4th: The Written World
Wednesday, September 5th: The Lost Entwife
Thursday, September 6th: Much Madness is Divinest Sense
Monday, September 10th: Stiletto Storytime
Tuesday, September 11th: Write Meg
Wednesday, September 12th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Thursday, September 13th: Oh! Paper Pages
Thursday, September 20th: Shall Write