Jul 29, 12
Read from July 08 to 29, 2012
Talmadge is an orchardist on the pacific northwest. He raises apricots, apples, and other fruits. The time is just at the start of the 20th century. Talmadge is a man of solitude, at one with the land; some might call him a recluse. Once a week he comes to town to talk with his friend, Carolyn Middie, a midwife and herbalist.
One week, out of nowhere, two pregnant girls steal some of his produce. He decides not to pursue them. The girls follow Talmadge to his orchard and live off his land, not letting him get too close to them and vice verse. Gradually, their three lives connect. Della and Janet are two sisters on the run from from a horrific situation when a man named Michaelson has stolen everything from them except their dignity. Della and Janet have managed to run away from Michaelson and he has put a price on their heads.
Talmadge's good friend Carolyn tells Talmadge that she will try to help with the childbirths. However, Della is pregnant with twins and Carolyn is unable to save them. Both are stillbirths. Janet's daughter survives despite harrowing and sickening circumstances. The baby is named Angeline. The fear of being returned to Michaelson is so great, however, that Janet takes her own life and plans to take the life of her child. She manages to succeed with the suicide but Della saves Angeline. The five of them become a family of sorts. Also part of their family is a group of horse wrangler led by a mute Nez Perce Indian named Clee. Della follows Clee around, determined to become a part of their fellowship. She ends up involved in a myriad of gothic misadventures.
The novel is about the mystery of connection, the sounds of silence, and the extremes to which love will take us. Talmadge refuses to let go of Della who is always troubled, and makes it his life's mission to get her back to the orchard and partake in the family, especially participating as Angeline's aunt.
Angeline loves Talmadge as a father, with a deep reverence and understanding of his connection with his orchard. She is at a loss, however, about why he needs Della so deeply.
The physical landscape of the pacific northwest in the early 1900's plays a huge part in this novel. These are times when horse wranglers and auctioneers still have a trade, where there are no roads into the foresets of the Columbia River Gorge, where solitude is as natural as breathing, and friendship can exist without words. It is a novel about place, where characters seek their own places in life and try to connect with others in order to understand how they are grounded and ways to follow their own north stars.
Amanda Coplin's book is like no other I've read this year. It is a novel that stands alone in its genius and evocation of a time and place that will never exist again. Truly original, perspicacious of the micro and macro aspects of the northwest, this is a book to cherish and I say, with deep sincerity, thank you Ms. Coplin for this literary masterpiece.