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The Blue Orchard

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  1,271 Ratings  ·  233 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
ebook, 416 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Touchstone (first published December 21st 2009)
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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
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.

Apr 04, 2014 Anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 01, 2011 Jo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 08, 2012 Zeek rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, fiction
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
Jackie Sanderson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
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
Jun 08, 2011 Ann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 06, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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Apr 15, 2012 Sharon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 16, 2011 L rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 19, 2011 Gremlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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

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
Jenn Kavanaugh
Aug 12, 2016 Jenn Kavanaugh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amazing book ! Based on the authors own grandmothers background. Interesting to see how they had to survive back then and how the children of the family had to earn a living for the family and how those demands took them to places in their lives that changed their lives forever.
Sep 23, 2013 Jack rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 12, 2014 Debbie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a mixed bag for me.
Dec 28, 2016 Jan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While the issues of race, class, family, abortion, and political machinations in Harrisburg, PA, during the first half of the 20th century give the reader fascinating historical information, I found the fictionalized story of nurse Verna Krone and Dr. Charles Crampton to be somewhat stilted. I knew that author Jackson Taylor based his novel on the life of his grandmother, but I didn't know till I read the afterword afterward that most details, including the characters' names, were factual. That ...more
Nov 11, 2016 Vivian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed the history told in this book. It is obvious that a lot of research went into it. Living a county over, many of the places described are known to me and I could really visualize the trips and the streets of Harrisburg. I'll always think of this book now whenever I cross the Harvey Taylor Bridge. I struggled to like the main character as she seemed compelled to make unwise choices. As someone who is pro-life, I found her constant defense that they were saving the lives of women to be mo ...more
Nov 27, 2012 Jenny rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-challenge
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sep 30, 2016 Cindy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another tough review. From the standpoint of keeping my attention, and an interesting story (based, somewhat, on the real life of the author's grandmother), I gave it 4 stars. From the standpoint of the subject of the book, abortion, I was saddened, appalled, angry and many other emotions while reading it! This book bears out the statistical data we have concerning abortions. Most abortions are done out of convenience, period! The two main characters in this book financially thrived off of killi ...more
May 14, 2012 Becky rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Steve Lindahl
Apr 15, 2011 Steve Lindahl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Morninglight Mama
I'm so torn about how to feel after reading this book. There were aspects of both the story and the writing that I enjoyed, but there were also issues that frustrated or annoyed me, as well. As for the writing, there's no doubt in my mind that Jackson Taylor is a talented storyTELLER (like the leading quote on the cover by Wally Lamb states- the reason that I chose to read this book in the first place), but that doesn't always convey to writing. If he were telling me this story, based upon the r ...more
Juliet Waldron
Jan 20, 2012 Juliet Waldron rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 10, 2014 Amanda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Sep 11, 2016 Jodi rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: book-club-books
Loved this book! It was the type of book you pick up and can hardly put down. It was so fun to read about place right where I live but set 50 - 75 years before I lived there! Verna worked hard to better herself and made a lot of difficult decisions in her life. I wish she had been a better mother to Sam. I loved that this book is based on the author's grandmother!!
This book comes to life for me, because the setting in Halifax is very close to where I grew up. In fact, my mother and aunt used to get their peaches from Verna's farm.

For me, this historical novel, written by Jackson Taylor, is about the issues of Verna's life. In her childhood, and early adulthood, the issue is poverty. After beginning her job with Dr. Crampton, the issues become abortion, dirty politics, and racial injustice.

As I read this novel, I am transfixed by the way that all of these
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
Jul 15, 2012 Jack rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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