Review: The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin

orchardist “At once intimate and epic, The Orchardist is historical fiction at its best, in the grand literary tradition of William Faulkner, Marilynne Robinson, Michael Ondaatje, Annie Proulx, and Toni Morrison. In her stunningly original and haunting debut novel, Amanda Coplin evokes a powerful sense of place, mixing tenderness and violence as she spins an engrossing tale of a solitary orchardist who provides shelter to two runaway teenage girls in the untamed American West, and the dramatic consequences of his actions.” – Goodreads

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin is an achingly tender and beautiful tale of love, loss, loneliness and desperation. Written so beautifully and with such lush and loving detail, this story envelopes you in its arms and holds you until the very end. Talmadge is a 50-something orchardist who has lived alone for the last forty years. His father died when he was nine, his mother when he was twelve, and his beloved sister, Elsbeth, disappeared in the woods while gathering herbs when he was eighteen (she was seventeen). He is a solitary man, with only two friends. Clee is a mute Nez Perce man with whom Talmadge has been friends since he was nine years old. Caroline Middey is a local healer who nursed Talmadge back to health when he was withering away with grief over Elsbeth’s disappearance; they have remained friends ever since.

Della and Jane are two pregnant sisters in their early teens, on the run from a dangerous man. They happen upon Talmadge’s orchard and set up camp. Upon discovering the young teens and noting their condition, Talmadge begins to feed them and to attempt to earn their trust. They accept his offers of food but strongly resist going anywhere near him, and the three simply coexist within the orchard. When Della and Jane both go into labor on the same day, they are forced to accept Talmadge’s invitation into his home as he and Caroline Middey assist in the birth of their children. Soon thereafter, however, the man who has been hunting the two young teens shows up, and tragedy ensues.

The Orchardist is a story that has stayed with me long after finishing the book. Coplin has created such lovable characters with such rich detail that you know these people were real to her as she wrote of them. Talmadge is such a good, sweet, honest man who works his orchard with a true love for the land. I wanted to know him, to join him in the orchard and live in his cabin and sit on the porch with him and Clee and Caroline Middey, drinking coffee and murmuring together in the evenings. Except for the working with the trees part – in my fantasy, I relax in the cabin or in the shade of an apricot tree as I read satisfyingly good books…

The Orchardist is an epic tale that won’t soon be forgotten. It is well worth your time, and it is one that you do not want to miss.

4 stars, my friend.

Source: Purchased from Amazon.com Kindle Books

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