Jeanette 's Reviews > The Orchardist

The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
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Sep 18, 12

bookshelves: all-fiction, america, domestic-and-relationship-fiction, four-star-fiction
Read in August, 2012

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.

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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Scribble (new)

Scribble Orca Your review sounds as polished and thoughtful as the writing style you describe.

Jo did this with another book, too. But as usual, I'm suffering old timer's disease and can't remember which one.

cheryl it's in my bedside table. may have to move it ahead in the pile :)

message 3: by Caroline (new) - added it

Caroline A great review, and I always find it so helpful when people warn that it takes a while to get into a book. The story sounds so much about dysfunction and self destructive behaviour though. Sitting here this morning, I don't think I could hack it.

message 4: by Caroline (new) - added it

Caroline On second thoughts, it sounds too good not to read....

Julie Just lovely, Jeanette. I'm really looking forward to reading this. 'Course always partial to books set in home turf, but the style sounds a little like Kent Haruf and that's a big plus for me.

Jill Wonderful review. I love some of your insights and it reminded me once again why I really liked this book.

Featherbooks Lovely review. I have put it on my list.

Jeanette G N, I don't know who Jo is. An author?

Caroline, you're right, it does have a lot of dysfunction, but never melodramatically so. Get it from your library and give it a whirl.

Julie, You nailed it!! Haruf! The whole time I was reading it I knew the style was like some other author and I could NOT think of who. Haruf is it, but I think Coplin is even more detached.

Thanks Jill. I'm falling behind. Haven't had a chance to read your review yet, but you're getting lots of appreciation for it on Ammy. :-)

MK, Looking forward to your impressions.

message 9: by Caroline (new) - added it

Caroline Somehow missed your comment Jeanette. Yup, I have now put this on my to-read lists. It is unbelievably helpful to hear your feedback.....

message 10: by Mikki (new)

Mikki "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."

I like spare writing if it suits the storyline and this sounds as if it does when you say "it's carefully polished." All three characters seem as if they're a bit guarded so maybe that accounts for the lack of dialogue...I don't know. Anyway, thoughtful review as always, Jeanette!

Jeanette I think you'll like it, Mikki. You may find like I did that you're wishing for deeper knowledge of the characters.

Jennifer Why do you think Caroline Midday is always referred by first and last name even in dialogue?

Jeanette Jennifer wrote: "Why do you think Caroline Midday is always referred by first and last name even in dialogue?"
I think it's just a stylistic choice, or if I were feeling less charitable I'd call it an affectation. I thought it was kind of weird.

message 14: by Holly (new) - added it

Holly Gatchell Thanks for the review. Can't wait to read it!

Jeanette Holly wrote: "Thanks for the review. Can't wait to read it!"
My friends' opinions have ranged from two to five stars on this one. Where will Holly land on the spectrum? :-)

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