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Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  383 ratings  ·  89 reviews
For fans of Anne Lamott, a profoundly moving memoir of rediscovering, reinventing, and reconnecting, as an estranged mother and daughter come together to revive a long-abandoned garden and ultimately their relationship and themselves.
 
Peeling paint, stained floors, vined-over windows, a neglected and wild garden—Tara Austen Weaver can’t get the Seattle real estate listing
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Hardcover, 304 pages
Published March 31st 2015 by Ballantine Books (first published March 24th 2015)
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3.91  · 
Rating details
 ·  383 ratings  ·  89 reviews


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Sian Jones
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I'm really good at telling folks what doesn't work for me about their writing, but I get a bit tongue-tied when it comes to describing something that really works for me. The cliches come: I was touched. I was moved. I didn't want it to end. But really, honestly, I was touched and moved and didn't want it to end. I mostly read at the kitchen table while eating breakfast these days, and this book sat on my kitchen table for more than a week so I could linger over the last two chapters. I knew the ...more
Katherine
Oct 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Honest, painful, revealing and moving. A well written memoir of the author's efforts to bring a large neglected garden back to productivity while attempting to create some semblance of connection with her family. Since both happiness and/or scars regarding family usually tend to run deep readers may likely have their own experiences and issues bubble to the surface as they read Weaver's struggle to come to terms with her own expectations and disappointments. Though one of the strengths of the bo ...more
Laurie
Apr 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
The author’s family wasn’t close- in fact, they’d decided that they worked better living in different cities. But now Weaver’s Seattle based brother has two children and another on the way, and her 70-ish mother decides she needs to move to that city. When they see a very unpromising property- a rundown old house with a huge, overgrown lot with fruit trees and berry bushes- they can’t get it out of their heads. The mother buys the house because of the food producing prospect; Weaver is enthused ...more
Randal White
Orchard House - An Outstanding Read! An outstanding book! The author, raised by her somewhat emotionally distant mother, is searching for a more satisfying and meaningful familial relationship. The two come together through the purchase and tending of a large Seattle garden. Kudos to Ms. Weaver for her ability to lay bare her soul and describe her emotions so well! And to be so brave to put it all out there for everyone to see! So many times in the book I found myself relating to her journey, th ...more
Kristi
Feb 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: unforgettable, 2018
I can hardly express how much this book means to me, how inspiring it is to my soul. If you have a garden (whether it flourishes from tall grass and weeds to juicy fruit and crisp veggies) and a family (children, parents, siblings, in-laws, nieces and nephews, etc.), both needing some tender loving care, this memoir will hold your hand, motivate your green thumb, and fill your heart with family-gathering hope while giving you that gardening rush us gardeners work for. Thank you to my soul sister ...more
NancyL Luckey
Jan 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Got a teaser from my library site for this book and knew I wanted to read it. I'd love to have lived in the house with the overgrown garden/orchard in Seattle! A mother and daughter shared it when they weren't living elsewhere - why they ever left it is beyond me! They both eventually learned "community" by reaching out to family and friends thru the garden. Tara built wonderful relationships with her nieces (niecelets) and thus with her brother. Wonderful book for anyone!
Suzanne Barrett
Mar 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Orchard House seems at first a story of a dilapidated Seattle house and its wondrous but vine-covered and neglected garden. At once intriguing but rather off-putting, the author and her academic mother begin to tackle what seems like an impossible task.
The property reminds Weaver’s mother of earlier gardens she tended, and she’s so drawn to the possibility of restoring it to the vegetable garden and fruit orchard of her dreams that she purchases it despite its shortcomings. Weaver, a writer livi
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Margaret

*I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley to review.

When I think of my mother I first remember our trips to the library and our shared love for reading and then, it is my memories of our gardening together. Reading this book brought back such sweet memories of gardening and cooking and preserving the bounty from our garden. For the past two years I have been delving back into the rich world of gardening and canning the rich rewards. My own daughter and her husband were the ones who
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Lin Stepp
Dec 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
At the beginning of the book a daughter is looking at an old, neglected home and garden with her mother. Of course it is the garden, from the first, that draws them both … and the mother and daughter bonding over fixing up the garden and working together doing it is the primary plot of this memoir. Anyone who loves to garden will especially love this book and its detail … but even those who don't garden but just appreciate the beauty of nature and growing things will find joy in the story, too. ...more
Theresa
Jun 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir

Tara Austen Weaver has always yearned for a closer-knit family. Her mother was raised by a very harsh stepmother (these days I would hope CPS would have been called in), and lacked the experience herself of a close family life. Although the author's mother worked very hard to raise her two children, Tara does not gloss over the sacrifices and hardships of her childhood.

Growing up in a single-working-mom family, Tara had few school friends because she could never bring friends home, (the few atte
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Dorine
Feb 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Gardening and Vegetable Lovers
A memoir of a garden renewal mixed with the imperfections of family dynamics, ORCHARD HOUSE will touch your heart and encourage your return to the land for your sustenance.

Raising two children alone had been difficult for her mother, but Tara Austen Weaver has fond memories as a child when her family moved to the country. Her mother fed Tara and her brother from the many fruits and vegetables she grew, until they had to move back to the city. Years later and miles apart, their mother is once aga
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Karen
May 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A lyrically written memoir about how Tara Austen Weaver grew a garden and in the process came to peace with herself, her family and the tough childhood that left her mother distant and estranged from her daughter. Throughout her adult years, Tara has an on and off again relationship with her mother and brother and they do not see each other often. In her 70's her mother decides to move the same city as her children and buys a home and garden which Tara attends to. In the long journey of becoming ...more
Amber Dawn
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own, first-read
I'm reviewing an advanced uncorrected proof I received through the GoodReads' First Read program.

Orchard House is an unflinchingly honest look at the relationship between Weaver and her family. She pulls no punches or tries to make herself better than she is; her flaws are just as evident as her family's. That dedication to realism is what makes the book. Weaver and her family seem like your own family and you're just as invested in her journey as if it's your own. There's no easy fix. That's wh
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Miriam
Apr 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
I heard Tara Weaver, a master gardener and a permaculture designer, speak at the BookLoft http://www.bookloft.com/ in German Village, Columbus, OH on April 27th. She who graciously shared her experiences during her talk.

In one long sitting, I devoured this book. I'd say I savored it, but that's too simple a description for this book. I was enchanted, inspired, and, at times, saddened by this memoir. Nevertheless, I wanted to finish it because I connected to strongly, much to my surprise, to many
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Carol
Apr 13, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
First off, I read an advanced/uncorrected proof copy of the book.

Secondly, if I was younger when I read this, I may have liked it better. But I have realized that you cannot change people, you cannot force your family into being what they are not.

And finally, what the hell is her obsession with blond/e hair!? I thought it was just me being nit-picky because I noticed this so often. But it got so damned annoying that I had to stop reading the book, and go back and count every time she commented
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Karen
May 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Orchard House is a wonderful story about rebuilding relationships, mending, healing and building a family. It also describes creating a singular life of your own and the value of sharing your personal life with people around you. I really wish I would have read this book long ago.


I found Tara Austen Weaver's book is one of the few books that I will read again.

What a wonderful book!



Jean
Feb 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Another recommended by my "virtual" genealogy book club. (They recommend the book, interview the author, but I wish there were more opportunity to exchange thoughts about the book, oh well). A memoir of a family trying to be more of a family as seen from the perspective of the author. Interesting observations on what life is all about and how we humans try to live it.
Jennifer
Mar 20, 2019 rated it really liked it
A charming foodie/gardening memoir that had potential to be another Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, but falls short of the mark because the author's garden is borrowed from her mother and she spends much of the book dissecting their relationship, which too often dwindles into motherblame. The book's redeeming qualities include fascinating anecdotes/discussions about gardening, food, and community that make it worth owning (I highlighted my copy like crazy!) as well as an abundan ...more
Tanya T
May 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. Her descriptions of the orchard made me really want to visit this place! It wasn’t just about the orchard either. I can really empathize with the author and her craving for a sense of family and close friendships. Raised by a stern, fiercely independent ,perfectionist mother the Author yearned for the kind of hugs,kisses and loving encouragement you find on popular tv shows of the 60’s and 70’s. It’s not that her mother didn’t love her children, she just showed it in ...more
Dawn
Jun 18, 2017 rated it liked it
Although this book is fictional, I came away with the impression that it was quite autobiographical. The story is told through the viewpoint of an adult female in mid-life, living her current life in Seattle, where she not only has her writing career and friends, but she looks after her younger brother's children some and her mother's yard a lot! Her mother is no slacker either. The lady raised her two children alone in California, and growing food has been a necessity in those days. Now, it has ...more
Mariam
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
What I liked: The imagery was beautiful. I imagined fruit trees in my own garden for the first time in my life. I love gardens and geese I feel and this book made me love it even more.

What I didn't like: The author's difficult childhood and relationship with her mother was hard to read. Sometimes I was upset with her for being so selfish, so self-centered, so insensitive. Couldn't she see how vulnerable her mother was? How much her mother needed something she might never get, never find?

Yet I
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Marie Bee
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
I hadn't planned to give this memoir four stars, but by the time I reached the last page I felt as though the author was a new friend, and I was sad to see her go. I particularly appreciate her candid descriptions of life with a stubborn and aging mother who is not particularly easy to get along with. Couple that with her stories of back-breaking labor in an overgrown plot of land that sometimes seems hardly worth the trouble, and I found a lot to relate with. An easy and enjoyable read all arou ...more
Donna Thomas
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book so much I'm buying it for others. My sweet friend, Jessie Ellis, buys several copies of books that inspire her and randomly gives them to friends. I'm stealing this idea from her. Thanks to Amazon Prime, I can ship this book off to my gardening and foodie friends that would appreciate Weaver's writing style and life experience. Writing, community, gardening, and food are her life songs, woven together for an intimate look at her family relationships and intrapersonal struggles. ...more
T
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Rated 5 stars because it articulated the uncomfortable gaps left in my relationships, my reactions, my understanding, in my adult life, that was left from my childhood. I have never, (EVER, EVER) highlighted, circled, underlined, a non textbook, but found myself helpless to refrain. One of the biggest compliments I can give a book (an in turn its author) is to pass it along to those I love, and who I know will enjoy them. Thank you for this.
Victoria
Jul 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
The kind of book that makes me excited about writing my own. Everything a memoir should be...full of life and passion and family and fear and honesty and hopes and dreams and effort. The way all of that was tied to her writing and gardening and cooking and search for community was absolutely breath taking.

Kristina Harper
Mar 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-memoirs
Orchard House is an absolutely lovely account of the author’s search for family and community, which she found in Seattle while taking on a backyard garden of gargantuan proportions. If you love gardening, food, and the idea of making connections with others and nurturing a family until it starts looking like what you’ve dreamed of, this is a must-read.
Robin Tzucker
May 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Maybe it was the combination of loving gardening and living in Seattle, but so many aspects of this book spoke to me. Plus it was beautifully written. Loaned to me by a friend and now I need to go get my own copy.
Jennifer Taylor
Jul 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Such a beautiful read. Thoroughly enjoyed the place she described and wish I could visit
Michelle
Dec 05, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: plants, memoir
I stumbled upon one of Weaver's blog posts and when I saw she had written a book about her garden adventures that had a slant toward permaculture, I was intrigued. Sadly, the book did not live up to my expectations. It's the kind of book that you would read and be impressed by if your literarily inclined aunt wrote and self-published it, but it's not particularly interesting to a non-relative. There was a lot of reflection on Weaver's relationship with her mother, and a possibly unhealthy obsess ...more
Beth Peninger
Sep 27, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thank you to NetGalley and Ballantine Books for this free reader's copy. In exchange I am providing an honest review.

What a lovely read. I am not a fan of 1) the outdoors 2) dirt 3) bugs 4) sweat and I have a black thumb. If it isn't human I have not been able to keep it alive. So I appreciate people who can grow things and are fans of the things I am not. Weaver is one of those people. She uses a large, neglected garden as the picture for restoring her disconnected family.
Every family has a he
...more
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Tara Austen Weaver writes about the big, wide world: food, travel, culture, the environment, art, and adventure in its many guises. A Northern California native, she has lived in five countries on three continents and is happiest either exploring with a notebook and camera, or spending the day in a kitchen learning how people feed themselves (the best stories always get told in the kitchen). Tara ...more
“Sometimes home has nothing to do with family or even with love; sometimes home is simply the place where you feel safe.” 1 likes
“In the garden of my childhood my mother grew corn and asparagus, beans, zucchini, and more, but the thing I remember most is the cherry tomatoes, bushy in their cages, the leaves slightly sticky, funny smelling. My mother wore long-sleeve shirts to weed the tomatoes.

I remember her plucking them off the bush, my brother and me opening our mouths like baby birds for her to pop them in. I closed my eyes to experience the exact moment my teeth pierced the smooth skin and the tomato exploded in a burst of acid sweet, the seeds slightly bitter in their jelly pouches. The sensation was so unexpected each time it happened that my eyes flew open. And there was my mother, smiling at me. That is what I remember.

My mother did not smile often. We have pictures where she is smiling, me or my brother nestled on her lap. You can tell she loves us. Her body language shows it. But mostly we knew she loved us because of how hard she worked for us. Usually elsewhere.

But the garden—the garden was her project. In the little time she had not devoted to work and cleaning and trying to hold her small world together, my mother grew food.

My brother and I didn't help in the garden, but we were usually playing nearby. We always wanted to be nearby when she was home. I remember her letting us crawl through the dried cornstalks after the ears had been harvested. I remember running my hands through the asparagus that had been allowed to go to seed. I remember eating plums from the old tree that lived in the corner of the yard. I remember her feeding us tomatoes fresh off the vine and still warm from the sun.

When I think of those tomatoes, it is not the flavor that moves me. They were shockingly sweet and tangy, but that is not what I remember the most. It is not what I yearned for.

Eating cherry tomatoes meant my mother was home; it meant she was smiling at me.”
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