Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “At the Edge of the Orchard” as Want to Read:
At the Edge of the Orchard
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

At the Edge of the Orchard

3.64  ·  Rating details ·  17,855 ratings  ·  2,576 reviews
From internationally bestselling author Tracy Chevalier, a riveting drama of a pioneer family on the American frontier

1838: James and Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck - in the muddy, stagnant swamps of northwest Ohio. They and their five children work relentlessly to tame their patch of land, buying saplings from a local tree man known as John Appl
Hardcover, 289 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by Viking
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about At the Edge of the Orchard, please sign up.
Popular Answered Questions
Carole P. Roman Not my favorite of hers. I much preferred Falling Angels, Pearl Earring, and Runaway. I had more of a feeling of revulsion, a hopelessness. Johnny App…moreNot my favorite of hers. I much preferred Falling Angels, Pearl Earring, and Runaway. I had more of a feeling of revulsion, a hopelessness. Johnny Appleseed is a myth about hope, and James's apples felt like they had such sweetness promised, but it never came. Sandra Dallas has written many books about pioneering families, and while they don't always have that hea, they are realistic and leave you feeling about the strength it took to build this country. Apples are also a symbol of temptation, but I don't think that was her aim. To me they were James's hope, but the book was so hopeless. Chevalier writes of people's struggles and I've always felt that somehow these challenges are the backbone that lead to something greater than the problem. In the end, it sort of fizzled for me. (less)
Mandy I actually think this is her best book yet. The story is so gripping, and the characters were real. I didn't find any of it hard to take. I also liked…moreI actually think this is her best book yet. The story is so gripping, and the characters were real. I didn't find any of it hard to take. I also liked the literary originality of the differing voices and the letters.
Excellent read.(less)

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.64  · 
Rating details
 ·  17,855 ratings  ·  2,576 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of At the Edge of the Orchard
Angela M
Mar 14, 2016 rated it liked it
The novel starts out with alternating chapters of a husband and wife , having settled in Black Swamp, Ohio traveling west from Connecticut when they could go no further through the mud. These are not just alternating points of view but so opposing - it had me wondering why they married in the first place . James wanted to grow apples for eating and Sadie wanted to grow "spitters" for the applejack. This is a vindictive, embittered husband and wife and I was heartbroken for their children.

I know
Joanne Harris
Sometimes, a book comes along that somehow ticks all the boxes. This is one of those books: it's minutely-researched, surefooted, touching and at times, heartbreakingly beautiful, and yet it manages to remain deceptively simple throughout, navigating the potentially difficult waters of the multiple narrative, multiple-timeline style as easily as a clipper ship on a sunny summer's day. The voices are rich and individual; the attention to detail impressive; and the scent of apples, damp earth, pin ...more
Diane S ☔
3.5 Black Swamp, Ohio is as far as the James and Sadie Goodenough with their children manage to travel. Here they settle, here Johnny Appleseed finds them and sells James apple trees and apple seeds.
These trees would prove a big bone of contention between husband and wife. Dysfunctional family, apple trees, apple jack, Hobbs a seed collector, the redwoods, sequoias, the gold rush, are some of the things touched on in this novel.

We start with the family and their efforts to settle in this swamp,
Victoria (RedsCat)
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
You know when you read an amazing book where the landscape becomes one of the characters? You know: the moors in Return of the Native, or the highlands (and the house) in Wuthering Heights. In At the Edge of the Orchard, you have trees. Apple trees, and redwoods, and giant sequoias.

The trees and landscape are also metaphors that reflect the lives of the characters. The Black Swamp, where everyone is stuck and it's hard to grow. Some apples are sweet and worth saving, others become bruised and s
Dale Harcombe
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I like Tracy Chevaliers’ writing and was keen to read this story which starts in Ohio in 1838. The aptly named place called Black Swamp, where James and Sadie Goodenough, live is a harsh landscape. James is committed to growing apple trees. Golden Pippins brought over from England initially are his favourites. His wife resents her husband and the life they are living. She spends much of her time drunk on applejack and trying to sabotage his efforts at growing good eating apples and developing th ...more
RoseMary Achey
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was ok
My primary complaints with this novel are the characters were flat and stereotypical and the story dragged for the first two-thirds of the novel.

None of the characters were highly likable or engaging. They did not seem to have significant depth. If you are new to Tracy Chevalier's work, I would recommend her earlier novels over this title.
Feb 16, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a huge fan of Tracy Chevalier and have read all of her previous novels, I've been very excited about this one since I heard about it late last year.
What fascinates me most about Tracy Chevalier and her writing is the fact that in every one of her books I've been introduced to a subject, or a place that I knew nothing about before. Whether is is Mary Anning, discovering fossils on the beach in the early 1800s (Remarkable Creatures, 2010), or Griet the young Dutch girl who became the model fo
Jul 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Just having the word "Orchard" in the title is probably enough to get my attention; but an apple orchard plus Tracy Chevalier plus a good audio rendition with a short waiting list, and I'm 100% committed. I liked this book a lot, except that it ended too soon IMO. There's the Goodenough family in Black Swamp, Ohio, and what an awful name for a town. Of course, awful things happen there. A couple with 5 living children and 5 dead, whose marriage is as sour as the apples they raise. James and Sadi ...more
Jan 16, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
This is an intense story of a married couple, Sadie and James Goodenough, and their children who settled in the swamps of Ohio in 1838. James has a love of apples and struggles with the muddy swampland to grow an apple orchard. He buys his seeds and saplings from none other than Johnny Appleseed. James loves the sweet apples but his wife Sadie loves the sour apples, called spitters, as those she can use to make applejack, which helps her escape the trials of the swamp. The biggest trial they fac ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A Wonderful story. From the black swamps of Ohio to San Francisco and Beyond. Tracey Chevalier is such a skilled story teller. I read this book in almost one sitting. Pioneers and settlers lived tough lives! I have a fondness for stories of San Francisco during the Gold rush and have always wanted to visit the red woods, so this book was perfect for me
Jul 03, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
(2.5) Spanning 1838 to 1856 and reaching from Ohio to the California coast, this is the story of the Goodenough family. James and Sadie left the East Coast to settle in Ohio’s formidable Black Swamp. It’s not a happy life, and not just because of the difficulty of raising healthy apple trees or children. As soon as eldest son Robert gets the chance to leave he eagerly heads west. I like how Chevalier wove in historical figures here, particularly William Lobb, the English seed agent Robert works ...more
I really enjoyed this novel. Quite a few reviewers have stated that the first parts of this book was slow and dragged. I actually preferred it to the second half. The hard life of starting from nothing, learning of the dysfunctional family dynamics, discovering Johnny Appleseed on a whole new level, and the apple Orchard itself (I felt a part of the descriptive surroundings quite often). The second half dragged more to me, but I would recommend this book without hesitation.
Louise Wilson
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
In 1838, James & Sadie Goodenough have settled where their wagon got stuck in the muddy, stagnant swamps in Northwest Ohio. They have children. They work hard to clear a patch of land and bought saplings from a local man called Johnny Appleseed.

In 1853, Robert their youngest child, is wandering through gold rush California. Haunted by the broken family he left behind.

This story is a bit depressing at the beginning but I did like the history behind this book. You can tell the author has researche
Nov 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A book about apples and family. Actually, one of the characters Is THE Johnny Appleseed, rowing down the river in a double canoe filled with apple seedlings and saplings and apple seeds for homesteaders to plant.

The Goodenough family has travelled from Connecticut to “The Black Swamp” in Ohio to make a life. James, the father, is the ultimate apple grower and worshipper. He treats his apples and trees better than his family. He is experienced in grafting, growing, and has a sixth sense with the
Trish at Between My Lines
This review was originally posted on Between My Lines

At The Edge of the Orchard by Tracy Chevalier is another winner for me from this creative author.  Tracy Chevalier writes fiction that is meticulously researched, brings the past vividly to life and entertains the hell out of me.  I love that she isn't afraid to shock with crude words, and even cruder situations.  Most literary fiction bores me, but this shock element, along with her unexpected imagery draws me in.  At The Edge of the Orchard
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: recent-reads
There's something about Chevalier's writing that just sucks me into the story. This story focuses on the Goodenough family trying to make their way in Ohio. John and Sadie transfer from Connecticut; John's hope is that he can support his family with his apple orchard. His wife Sadie makes her misery known and is an unlikable character throughout.

Robert is the youngest in the Goodenough family and this story really belongs to him. We get his travelogue through letters he writes home to his famil
Aug 02, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2016
I won this book as a first read. I always feel a bit sad when the book doesn't sweep me off my feet. This book was depressing and sad. I wanted to connect with someone about something and just never did. It kept my interest enough to finish, but I was glad when it came to an end. ...more
Asheley T.
On my reread, I changed my rating from 4/5 to 5/5!! This book appeals to me in these ways: set in America during the 1800's, frontier life, and it is (at least in part) about trees.

James and Sadie Goodenough have moved to Northern Ohio to start a new life in the sticky mud of the Black Swamp. James is obsessed with his apple trees and wants nothing more than to see his orchard thrive; Sadie wants nothing more than for the orchard to fail. Their relationship is contentious and toxic, made harder
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it

In her latest novel, Tracy Chevalier returns to Ohio, the setting of The Last Runaway, except this story is not about quilts but trees, from the humble apple tree to the majestic sequoia.

The story begins in 1838, with Sadie and James Goodenough literally stuck in the mud in the Black Swamp, Ohio where they hope to stake their claim by growing an apple orchard. It is a truly bleak, inhospitable environment with bitter winters and the summer swamp fever ruthlessly claiming so many lives year in y
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it
This book was not one of my favorites. I've read two other books by this author (Girl With a Pearl Earring and Remarkable Creatures) and really liked them.

This book was depressing because of the dysfunction that was rampant throughout. I don't usually slash the stars for that, but it felt like a 'shock and awe' campaign. I like for there to be some underlying message or understanding or some thing along those lines. I want it to mean something, but I couldn't feel any of that. It was just there
Feb 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this story about surviving in the US in the mid 1800s. Geographically, the story takes place in Connecticut, Ohio, a little bit in Detroit, Minnesota and Texas, then California. The premise is trees, mostly apple and redwood, but there is wonderful character development too.
Katie Lumsden
Sep 27, 2018 rated it liked it
Maybe 3.5. I enjoyed this novel, though not as much as some of her other work. It's an interesting look at 19th century American society with some great themes and characters, but it did take me a little bit of time to get into. ...more
Althea Ann
Mar 26, 2016 rated it liked it
I've read 4 of Chevalier's other books, and liked them all, so I picked this one up even though none of the description's keywords triggered any of my particular interests. It's an interesting book... or, almost, two books. The story is sharply split, and I'm not sure the division works that well.

In the first quarter of the book, we meet a Westward-bound pioneer family who have run out of steam and settled in the swamps of Ohio. (I didn't even know there was a swamp in Ohio: https://en.wikipedia
Carole P. Roman
Apr 10, 2016 rated it liked it
One rotten apple can spoil the entire bunch. Sarah is a drunk. Abrasive, mean-spirited, and bitter, she is angry at her lot in life and find solace in apple jack, the liquor made from the bitter apples her husband is attempting to grow in the inhospitable soil of the frontier. James loves his sweet apples, the seedlings he patiently carts around and transplants from his nostalgic home in Connecticut. He relishes their taste because they remind him of the possibility of a sweet life. It is the on ...more
A great audio and a well written story. This is my favorite so far of Chevalier's books. I range 3-5 stars with her stuff but I think this is the best of the ones I've read so far. ...more
Sep 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
In Tracy Chevalier's eighth novel, At the Edge of the Orchard, the Goodenough family is anything but good enough. Told in alternating narratives set in 1838 Ohio and 1853 California, this is mostly the story of Robert Goodenough, the youngest son of James and Sadie. In 1838 he is a bright-eyed, quiet, observant child, about 9 years old, who bears witness to the increasingly brutal feud between his parents. The Goodenoughs have an apple orchard, and James has a romanticized affection for his belo ...more
This is about the Goodenough family who lives in northwest Ohio about 12 miles from Perrysburg in the 1850's, back when it was known as the Black Swamp. This is like a dysfunctional Little House on the Prairie with the daily struggles of food and disease and day to day life of living on your own in an inhospitable environment. You grow to love some of the Goodenough children-- quiet, shy, and smart Robert and Martha-- and hate the alcoholic mother and apple-tree-obsessed father who are constantl ...more
Apr 09, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: large-print
Good story, I really liked how it ended. It wrapped up the story lines and left enough undone for a sequel (if there is one). The story started with apples and Johnny Appleseed was woven into the tale. The Goodenoughs are an extremely disfunctional family, youngest son Robert sets off on his own to travel and see the west.

3.75 stars rounded up to 4.
Mar 18, 2020 added it
Shelves: abandoned
I abandoned this book so I won't give it a rating.

I found it interesting initially, learning all about the trees, and I do love a good pioneering story. But the characters were such horrible people, doing horrible things to each other. Very disappointing as I've loved some of her other books.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Forever Painless: End Chronic Pain and Reclaim Your Life in 30 Minutes a Day (Aging Backwards Book 2)
  • The Book of Lost Friends
  • Verbena
  • Caleb's Crossing
  • The Pull of the Stars
  • The Samurai's Daughter (Samurai #2)
  • Hamnet
  • The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek
  • Simon the Fiddler
  • Mina (Mina, #1)
  • The Exiles
  • Caravaggio saga (Caravaggio Trilogy #1-3)
  • Miss Benson's Beetle
  • Leonardo da Vinci. Il mistero di un genio
  • Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice
  • Life In A Box: Traveller. Antiques Dealer. Mother. Model. Iconoclast.
  • Old Seems to be Other People
  • Novelas de Isabel Allende: La Casa de Los Espiritus, El Bosque de Los Pigmeos, El Reino del Dragon de Oro, de Amor y de Sombra, La Ciudad de Las Bestias, Retrato En Sepia, El Zorro: Comienza La Leyenda, Hija de La Fortuna
See similar books…
See top shelves…
19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

Nerdy. Spent a lot of time lying on my bed reading. Favorite authors back then: Laura Ingalls Wilder, Madeleine L’Engle, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Joan Aiken, Susan Cooper, Lloyd Alexander. Book I would have taken to a desert island: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.


Articles featuring this book

Her Favorite Frontier Books: Pack your wagon and head west with these five picks from the author of the new historical novel At the Edge of the...
15 likes · 18 comments
“California is where you get to start over.” 6 likes
“But John Chapman told us he didnt eat meat cause he couldnt stand for somethin livin to be killed jest to keep him alive.” 5 likes
More quotes…