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The Orchard: A Memoir

4.04  ·  Rating details ·  614 ratings  ·  141 reviews
The Orchard is an exquisitely beautiful and poignant memoir of a young woman's single-handed struggle to save her New England farm in the depths of the Great Depression. Recently discovered by the author's daughter, it tells the story of Adele "Kitty" Robertson, young and energetic, but unprepared by her Radcliffe education for the rigors of apple farming in those bitter t ...more
Hardcover, Large Print, 278 pages
Published December 31st 1996 by Thorndike Press (first published 1995)
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Martie Nees Record
Sep 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This posthumous memoir by Robertson was discovered by her daughter years after her mother’s death. Although the manuscript is incomplete it is still an intriguing account of one woman's daily victories and defeats as she works to keep a New England apple farm going during the Great Depression. Mostly alone she managed to preserve - despite chemical burns, insect bites, working with equipment that has to be patched to run while living in an unheated house – the farm and to bring in a good 1932 ha ...more
Frances Fitch
Apr 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
What a gorgeous book. As John Updike said, "Kitty reminds us of who we are and where we live." Made me proud to be a woman, a New Englander, an Essex County denizen, a worker of the land...
Denise Brown
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The Orchard is a touching memoir of a young woman valiantly struggling to save her family's farm by reviving its apple orchard. The author shares very interesting insights into surviving winter on the Massachusetts coast, how apples are raised and stored before sale, and life during the Depression.
May 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting look at life during the Depression, although this was somewhat different than the typical picture we see. Kitty is trying to save her family farm/orchard by the sea in Massachusetts, and her father was a doctor, so she is starting from a much better place than most of the people of that period. I liked the descriptive writing of the land, her childhood memories, and her working the land.
Apr 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: gardeners, history buffs, fans of strong women stories
This is the journal of a woman who inherited the family farm in the midst of the Depression. Her brothers aren't interested in the farm or the orchard, so Adele moves in to the old house and takes over the care of several hundred apple trees. She toils alone at the backbreaking work, living on credit and poor food. She tells about the hardships she and her neighbors endure. She experiences exhaustion, loneliness and frequent despair she felt as she struggles to keep the orchard going, harvest th ...more
David Kent
Nov 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a memoir of Adele Crockett Robertson. It is also a memoir of the hard work, persistence, and dedication of a singular woman as she tries to keep the family apple orchard alive during the depression in a small New England town. It also just happens to be my hometown. Robertson, known as Kitty to everyone, was a legend in Ipswich until, and even long after, her death in 1979. The manuscript was found by her daughter and published years after it was written. Robertson’s writing is crisp and ...more
Deb Grove
Sep 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I picked this out of a box my Dad had packed to send to auction. I had no expectations but once I started this memoir, it was hard to put it down. It is a few years in the life of a woman who worked to save the family farm during the depression. It takes place in Ipswich MA close to the ocean where I have been recently because my daughter now lives near there. I was so consumed by her story I want to see if any of it remains. The memoir tells of the ups and downs she faces,and brings the Depress ...more
Kelly Brown
Sep 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A beautifully written book that describes Adele Crockett Robertson's attempt to save her Ipswich, Massachusetts orchard during the height of the depression. Although the orchard ultimately failed, Robertson did not. She learned the lessons that we all need to learn: the best parts of life are the people we meet, nature provides us with all we really need, and the only failure in life is to give up hope.
Nov 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Click on the book to get the basic review... I really liked this book because of the "orchard" in our family and our father's passion for the apple. Deb and Henri, this book would resonate with you.
Oct 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book and have read it twice now. The writing is beautiful, the woman is strong, the history is real.
Aug 31, 2016 rated it really liked it
Read this one a few years ago, but it just popped up on K's want to read list. I really enjoyed it, largely because it is local history, but the writing is good.
Julie Barrett
Jul 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The orchard: a memoir by Adele Crockett Robertson
Love hearing of the depression years and how families survived.
This story is about a New England farm taken care of by a woman with a college degree and she takes on the job of reviving the orchard. Starts with her finding her father dead in the farmhouse and what transpires.
She does get help from some but there are thieves also that want her crops.
A mill town she is able to sell the apples to a man who sells them at the street corner in the city
Dec 26, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never met Betsy Cramer; we were just "cyber friends" back in the '90s (in a group called the "UML"), when she was editing her mother's amazing story. I felt lucky that Betsy shared it with me as she carefully edited her mother's experiences during the Depression, trying to keep the family apple orchard alive. If you get a chance, you too, will find the writing and story of this memoir deeply, deeply moving, and worthy of your reading time. Here it is 20+ years later after the publishing date, ...more
Emily Puccini
Jun 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I picked up this book pretty randomly, knowing nothing of it's backstory or the author, and it is one of my favourites. The author's determination to make a go of her apple farm, with no previous experience in agriculture, in horrible weather conditions, in the middle of the Great Depression, and with no one to help her at first is nothing short of inspiring.
Susanne Beyer
Erinnerungen einer Glücklichen? Ich empfand es eher als eine zutiefst tragische und traurige Geschichte, auch wenn sie ihre lichten Momente hatte. Und ich war entsetzt, wie viel Äpfel und Pfirsiche damals schon gespritzt wurden.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
Well written memoir of the author's struggles to run her family's orchard during the Great Depression, and the friendships she formed during that time in her life. Inspiring, informative, and not too depressing, plus it features a good doggo.
Krista Stevens
Oct 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir, survival, nature, girls
True account of a young woman who tries to save her family's fruit farm in Ipswich, MA (Not Gooddale's Orchard, though they are part of this story) during the Great Depression. Could be added to SR lists for juniors or for transcendentalism.
Robyn Obermeyer
Jan 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading every page of this book! Had a lot of imfo on apples and peaches, everyday life on the orchard and I was impressed by her hard work efforts and ability to endure the elements in the old days,right here in Mass!Long long ago!
Nov 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A wonderful memoir! What a resourceful women Kitty Robertson was; so dedicated to land preservation and providing living wages to workers during the depression. Truly admirable what Kitty was willing to fight for. A beautiful tribute to Adele's mother, well worth reading.
Jan 03, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A New England classic about a woman working her family farm alone during the Great Depression. A memoir with a slow burn all its own.
Katherine Hebert
Oct 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
4 1/2 really. What an extraordinary woman!
Jan 24, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of women in the Great Depression
I liked this book for a variety of reasons.

#1 The writing was lovely. The descriptions of trees and fruit were poetic and beautiful

#2 The story was engaging. I wanted to keep reading to find out what would happen next. The author brought alive the people and places she described.

#3 The first-person account of life during the Great Depression was fascinating. I've read about the Great Depression, but this may be the first time I've read an account of the period by a person who is actually living
Sep 17, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: new-england
After her father’s death in 1932, “Kitty” Robertson was the only one of her siblings who wanted to keep the family orchard in Ipswich, Massachusetts, and she finally persuaded the rest of the family to let her give it a try. Her education at Radcliffe and her jobs as a writer/editor had hardly prepared for the hard physical labor involved, but she kept the orchard going in spite of storms and extremely cold winters, and financial problems due to the depression. Eventually, Kitty wrote a memoir o ...more
Oct 09, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I found this to be a book of hope for my current college graduate generation. It gives me hope that hard work will pay off, and you can still find happiness without the top pay and positions we hold in hightest esteem. I will reccomend it to all my friends struggling to find work due to overqualification and those trying to stick to their ideals in this current economic situation. Her oppinions and attitude throughout the book struck a chord with me, and I am fascinated that a depression era sto ...more
Jennifer Hughes
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a beautiful book. An unfinished memoir of a young woman who worked to save her family home and orchard from being taken by the bank during the terrible Depression years just after the big crash. "Kitty" Robertson is so gutsy, so brave in the face of overwhelming adversity, working harder than I think we even know how anymore. Her writing is luscious, and her character leaps from the page large and beautiful and heartbreaking as a fiction character. Her daughter's foreword and epilogue--also ...more
Dec 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This was a very good book about times during the depression. It is very much what I'm sure happened all over during those times and since it is a true story you don't get a happy ending like you would in a fiction book perhaps. She just works and works even harder and it doesn't really get her ahead. Which is in a way refreshing. Life is hard work and sometimes thats it, your not going to be a millionaire because of it or all your dreams come true. You just work and keep on working and I are hap ...more
Richda Mcnutt
Apr 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolute gem of a book - an account of a young woman's attempt to maintain a family orchard after her father's death in the early 1930's. In the midst of the Great Depression, she is fighting enormous odds - and attempting to do it on her own. She battles cranky equipment, unpredictable weather, better-established and maintained competing orchards, and a lack of able farm workers - for the end result of a crop of apples and peaches that will probably not bring enough money to pay off ...more
Feb 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book took me home. I once got lost and ended up driving through Ipswich and after reading this I'm so glad that I got lost that day. It looked much like any New England town does but for me they each still have their own unique flavor. Reading this memoir made me channel Currier & Ives, Robert Frost and made me long for a simpler, albeit more difficult, time in our country's history. It also brought back vivid memories of my own childhood. The fact that she never sought to have this pub ...more
Feb 24, 2014 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Kathleen Valentine
Adele Crockett Robertsen tells the tale of her efforts during the Great Depression to save her family homestead in Ipswich, Mass.
This a straightforwardly told tale of perseverance in the face of great odds, the kindness of friends and family, and how the arrogance of youth can be a saving grace.
Adele has a college education but it isn't much help when it comes to growing peaches and apples.
Overwhelmed by debt, hampered by broken machinery, neighbors needing a promise of a paycheck come to her ai
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was a really beautifully written simple memoir of this woman's struggle to save her family's orchard. It is a quiet book, but tells of one woman's strength, independence, courage, & determination through the difficult Depression years and through the challenges that come with orchard farming. All that she worked for and accomplished would have been amazing at that time for anyone, but the fact that she was a woman accomplishing so much at this period in history makes it even more remark ...more
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