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At the Edge of the Orchard

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3.62  ·  Rating details ·  14,880 ratings  ·  2,279 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
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Hardcover, 289 pages
Published March 15th 2016 by Viking
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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…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)
Pamela Maring I appreciated the stark reality of the personalities... Sadie's alcoholic tirades and irrational behavior, the acceptance of death due to the swamp…moreI appreciated the stark reality of the personalities... Sadie's alcoholic tirades and irrational behavior, the acceptance of death due to the swamp fever, later Caleb's behavior, Martha's shyness and her transformation to a strong character ... I could understand how the adversity shaped her strength. Robert's self-imposed isolation from people was appropriate and his need to relate cautiously with others gave an important layer to the story. The history and the later setting (California) touched me personally. I lived near Monterey Bay (coastal CA) and had a sequoia gigantea on my property, many feet high, the only healthy tree of its specie in the 4 adjacent counties... Robert or someone like him must have transplanted it about the time of this story. I was appreciative of the research citations after the story... Fiction? of course, but anchored in real people, real situations and real history.(less)

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3.62  · 
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 ·  14,880 ratings  ·  2,279 reviews


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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
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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,
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Victoria (RedsCat)
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
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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.
☮Karen
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
Marjorie
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
Anne
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
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Kasia
Jul 03, 2016 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Rebecca
(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
Christine
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 resea
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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
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Kathryn
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.
Teresa
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
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Donna
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
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Lynne
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.
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
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Tasha
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.
Maria
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
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
Vikki
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
Karen Kay
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.
Dianne
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2016
Review to come - a solid 3.5.
Laurel
Mar 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-read-2016
Tracy Chevalier’s At the Edge of the Orchard is such an enjoyable work of historical fiction that I didn’t want it to end. It’s not just that so many of the characters were real (John Chapman/Johnny Appleseed, William and Thomas Lobb, Billie Lapham), but Robert and Martha Goodenough and Molly were so deftly drawn, they too seemed to have actually lived along with the others during this time period. The description of the redwoods and the Sequoias will satisfy any lover of nature (you may want to ...more
John
Robert Goodenough has learned so much from William Lobb, famed worldwide plant collector that in 1853 he is often sent to travel the Western United States in search of unusual specimens to be sold to other countries in the British realm, such as the giant sequoia. His skill in working with plants came naturally since his family produced an apple orchard in Black Swamp, Ohio, a small community where the pioneer Goodenough family’s wagon became mired during a westward migration from New England in ...more
Craig Monson
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
If Tracy Chevalier were writing historical NON-fiction, this would be called “microhistory”: a story of the plain, ordinary folk, who make their own histories but are commonly eclipsed by our preoccupations with “Great Men,” who make wars, treaties, dynasties, borders and who, consequently, populate history textbooks. Unlike some writers of historical fiction, Chevalier clearly cares about getting the details right: readers get the feeling that they can trust the stage setting and window dressin ...more
Stinky Girl
Sep 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book was about the 1830s and 40s durring the gold rush in California and the apple rush in Ohio. It tells of the struggles and tryumphs of a family in these times.
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Born:
19 October 1962 in Washington, DC. Youngest of 3 children. Father was a photographer for The Washington Post.

Childhood:
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.

Educa
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“People had gone west leaving behind all sorts of trouble; what they found in California was the space and freedom to create new trouble.” 3 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.” 3 likes
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