The Blue Orchard
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The Blue Orchard

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  998 ratings  ·  209 reviews
On the eve of the Great Depression, Verna Krone, the child of Irish immigrants, must leave the eighth grade and begin working as a maid to help support her family. Her employer takes inappropriate liberties, and as Verna matures, it seems as if each man she meets is worse than the last. Through sheer force of will and a few chance encounters, she manages to teach herself t...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Touchstone (first published December 21st 2009)
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Sep 06, 2011 Angie added it
A book club choice, this novel deals with compelling subject matter (all the more interesting when one learns that it is based on the author's grandmother's life). The first third was supremely engaging--I was invested in the characters' lives, but then the story devolves into a lot of plot and cliched dialogue. The entire narrative is told via a journal, which has benefits (the beginning is lushly introspective) and drawbacks (it feels awkwardly forced for at least the second half). Overall, I...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Interesting beginning. Boring end.

I was gonna go with 2 stars, because it's a well written story but, thinking back on it, I just can't let myself. I enjoyed the references to a town I know well, Harrisburg, unfortunately the setting and time of the novel were more remarkable then the characters.

In the 1930s, Verna Krone, leaves school early in order to get a job to help support her family. The man in the family she's working for molests and eventually rapes her, and every man after that in her...more
This is an interesting story about the author's grandmother, Verna. A poor farm girl from Pennsylvania growing up in the early 1900s. She works hard, supports her widowed mom and siblings, and earns her nursing license. She eventually becomes a nurse (a white one) to a black doctor who performs illegal (but medically sound for the time period) abortions. He wasn't using coat hangers or doing them in alleys, in other words. He's a good man; she's a good nurse. There's nothing untoward about their...more
This book gives an eye-opening view of life in and around Harrisburg PA from the 1920's until the end of Eisenhower's presidency. Very poor rural people, inner-city black people, politicians, businessmen, and rich society characters are present. The narrator is a person who really lived at this time in this place. The book is a novelized version of her life written by her grandson.

I think this novel might not be as entertaining for people who are not from central Pennsylvania, but I think most...more
The Blue Orchard is a story based on the life of the author's own grandmother, Verna Krone. The story begins on the eve of the Great Depression, and Verna, then a fifteen year old girl from an impoverished white family, finds work as a maid to help support her family. Through her own determination she learns to read and then gets inspired to become a nurse. Luckily, one of her employers gives her the tuition to be payed back after Verna gets a job, and she graduates with no problem. Verna finds...more
Florence Ditlow
Here is a rarely told story, unique as it sheds brilliant light on two major issues. Women struggling for equal rights concurrently as people of color strive to be treated as equals.
The author gets to the heart of this through Verna, who says, "If there is no way I'll make one." Her business partner just happens to be a black surgeon who mentors hundreds of people in Harrisburg, PA.
I also have delved into women surviving the last century (see Bakery Girls) and know the depth of his research. He...more
Verna is not an especially sympathetic lead, though some will likely attribute her character to her early history, which is, indeed, a hard one. Her motivation for getting involved in "illegal surgery" is more complex than it appears though most of the book. Also, she does gain some insights toward the end of the book. Dr. Crampton, likewise, follows unknown motives, with those he expresses feeling somewhat off. All of that said, Taylor invokes Harrisburg, PA from the Great Depression through th...more
This was an incredibly fascinating read. All the moreso because of it's historical basis.

A young woman growing up extremely poor during the depression struggles to get somewhere in life and eventually makes enough money/friendships to get herself into a nursing school. Once out of nursing school, she eventually ends up as the assistant to an abortion doctor, who also happens to be black.

Such an interesting look at politics, abortion, class, and race issues in one woman's tale, and best yet, the...more

Verna Krone, practical nurse during the depression, should have installed a revolving door at her house for the men that came and went. She picks up all the losers, bears a son, Sam who she never cares for, and works for an African-American doctor who administers abortions although they are illegal at the time.

Not sure if this is a political story about the value of legalized abortion, or about promiscuous women and the trouble they find themselves in, or just a story with way too many c...more
Jackson Taylor’s sometimes poetic, sometimes heavy-handed story of Verna Krone’s journey from extreme poverty to assisting a well-to-do African-American doctor in illegal abortions left me befuddled. On both and LibraryThing, people raved about Taylor’s handling of Krone’s story; he can turn a phrase, they enthused, and he balanced the history with the poetic.[return][return]Well, here I am again to go against the grain. The beginning of Taylor’s novel is the strongest; it falters in...more
Christine Goldbeck
You have to read this book! Promise me you will. Anyone in the Harrisburg political scene will enjoy the story of the Harvey Taylor era. The novel is based on the true story of the author's grandmother who was born in poverty and refused to sit back and allow life to run over her. Verna Krone was her name and she was nurse to Harrisburg's abortion doctor, a Negro physician who was friend to Harvey Taylor.

I loved this book. A combination of history, medicine, nursing, women's rights, civil rights, love and life. For me this was a true "page turner" that I couldn't wait to get back to reading.
I found this book to be extremely thought-provoking, and I am very glad that I found it at my local public library. It was both interesting and heartbreaking to read about the history of both blacks and whites in the eastern US in approximately the first half of the twentieth century.

I have decided that I absolutely despise Verna, who is the main character. She represents much of what I abhor: greed, narcissism, insensitivity, lack of responsibility .......

I have similar feelings about Dr Crampt...more
Noelle M
There's no way not to empathize this woman's pathetic upbringing and young adulthood, and her determination to improve her lot, and her attempts to marry and rear a family. The narrative implies all women engage in abortion, and the doctor's civic virtue compensated for his questionable morality. The story proposes that babies in utero are objects to be acted upon for the convenience of more powerful ex utero individuals. The protagonist was a fair weather accomplice of the black doctor. Do our...more
Jack Getz
Well worth the read, if only to experience a different age when abortion was illegal. It opened my eyes about the subject. And my mind.
Well-written account of the life of Verna Krone, grandmother of the author. Having to drop out of school early to help support her family, Verna overcame many obstacles to learn to read and eventually became a nurse. Because of the lure of money and a conviction to make available a safe and sanitary place for women to obtain abortions, Verna got a job assisting a black doctor in Harrisburg. Read the book to find out why she was exonerated. The story takes place during the first half of the 1900'...more
Interesting story, but the author needed a better editor.
This was a mixed bag for me.
Jenny D.
I enjoyed it. Taylor definitely kept me reading to see what would happen next. However, I do have some criticisms. To write a character of the opposite gender of yourself is incredibly hard, and I feel that Taylor's narration proves that. Though the story is good, I don't feel that he effectively portrayed certain characteristics that are more true to the female gender in Verna, such as sensitivity, empathy, over analyzing, maternal instinct, etc. Instead, Verna acted and thought much more like...more
Juliet Waldron
This is one of those books that I naturally resist, because I wonder if it's fair for men to write out of a woman's POV. The Blue Orchard is set in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1920’s to the late 1950’s, the fictionalized story of Verna Krone, who was the author’s grandmother. This is a remarkable woman’s story, with many dimensions and a tragic secondary character, Verna’s employer, the influential Dr. Crampton, a black physician with status across the as-yet-unbroken color line. The first chapter...more
Jackie Sanderson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Steve Lindahl
The Blue Orchard was a choice by my bookclub. It lead to one of the most interesting discussions we've had with the group. The book is set in Harrisburg, Pa, which is a place a few of our members are familiar with. It deals with race relations and abortion, topics about which people tend to have strong and emotional opinions.

The book spans most of the life of Verna Krone who is the grandmother of the author. Her stories have been documented by Jackson Taylor in his book, which he calls a novel b...more
4.5 stars. Jackson does an amazing job capturing a time period and the true accounts of his grandmother, Verna Krone. What I loved about this book is how flawed and conflicted Verna is. We follow her as a young woman in rural Pennsylvania in the early 1900's when the hardships of farm life and the death of her father force Vera to earn money as a maid for a neighboring family. One can argue that this event begins a history of her being involved with men who take advantage of her (on some level)...more
5.0 out of 5 stars - "If there isn't a way, I make one."

This is a novel based on the life and times of the author's grandmother, Verna Krone, a Licensed Practical Nurse who helped with "illegal operations" in 1940/50s-era Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Her story is one that will linger with you long after you've turned the last pages of the book, read the author's afterword and the acknowledgments.

Verna, forced to leave school in the 8th grade, was ill-used by men since she was loaned out to work as...more
“I would like each of you to now think in terms of acquiring skill. Good skill helps you move more freely in the world. Skill is your confidence. Skill is your protector. Skill is your friend. And this above all else—skill is a legitimate form of power. Did everyone hear that? A legitimate form of power! The operative word here is legitimate. Skill is not the realm of the fascist or the bully, or the weak and dependent. Skill allows us to mitigate those qualities in ourselves and in ot...more
The Blue Orchard is a good read, but not a great read. It is a story of a woman who grew up around the time of the Great Depression & the pre Civil Rights era. Verna Krone lived a very difficult life of poverty & abuse. This lead to a life of mistrust & poor decisions. One would empathize with her, if she weren't such an unlikeable character.

The book is a fusion of non-fiction/fiction. At times it is an interesting biography-like journal, but at other times it is excruciatingly detai...more
Robbins Library

"There is no substitute for character and you never know where you'll find it."

This is a powerful story, set in Pennsylvania during a time of great change and upheaval: the Great Depression, World War II, and the postwar period. The main character, Verna, grows up poor; she leaves school early to work to bring in money for her mother and siblings. Throughout her youth, men take advantage of her in various ways, with the expected consequences. She has a son, who she leaves with her mother to go b...more
When my mom told me there was a new book out about the secret history of abortion in Harrisburg, my hometown, I thought, "At last! Someone has written me a novel!"

And I was mostly right. As local history, as racial history, and as women's history, this book is absolutely fascinating. But I wouldn't have gotten nearly as much out of it if I didn't care so deeply about Harrisburg. Also, it's a thinly fictionalized telling of true events, and as a novel, it doesn't carry its weight.

This book tells...more
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“Pop used to say no one knows more tricks than a country midwife." - Verna Krone, The Blue Orchard” 1 likes
“I would like each of you to now think in terms of acquiring skill. Good skill helps you move more freely in the world. Skill is your confidence. Skill is your protector. Skill is your friend. And this above all else -- skill is a legitimate form of power." Nurse Pierce, The Blue Orchard” 1 likes
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