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The Blue Orchard

3.77  ·  Rating details ·  1,321 Ratings  ·  241 Reviews
On the eve of the Great Depression, Verna Krone, the child of Irish immigrants, must leave the eighth grade and begin working as a maid to help support her family. Her employer takes inappropriate liberties, and as Verna matures, it seems as if each man she meets is worse than the last. Through sheer force of will and a few chance encounters, she manages to teach herself t ...more
Hardcover, 416 pages
Published January 12th 2010 by Touchstone (first published December 21st 2009)
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Christine Goldbeck
Jun 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
You have to read this book! Promise me you will. Anyone in the Harrisburg political scene will enjoy the story of the Harvey Taylor era. The novel is based on the true story of the author's grandmother who was born in poverty and refused to sit back and allow life to run over her. Verna Krone was her name and she was nurse to Harrisburg's abortion doctor, a Negro physician who was friend to Harvey Taylor.

Jun 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This book gives an eye-opening view of life in and around Harrisburg PA from the 1920's until the end of Eisenhower's presidency. Very poor rural people, inner-city black people, politicians, businessmen, and rich society characters are present. The narrator is a person who really lived at this time in this place. The book is a novelized version of her life written by her grandson.

I think this novel might not be as entertaining for people who are not from central Pennsylvania, but I think most
Florence Ditlow
Here is a rarely told story, unique as it sheds brilliant light on two major issues. Women struggling for equal rights concurrently as people of color strive to be treated as equals.
The author gets to the heart of this through Verna, who says, "If there is no way I'll make one." Her business partner just happens to be a black surgeon who mentors hundreds of people in Harrisburg, PA.
I also have delved into women surviving the last century (see Bakery Girls) and know the depth of his research. He
Aug 20, 2011 added it
A book club choice, this novel deals with compelling subject matter (all the more interesting when one learns that it is based on the author's grandmother's life). The first third was supremely engaging--I was invested in the characters' lives, but then the story devolves into a lot of plot and cliched dialogue. The entire narrative is told via a journal, which has benefits (the beginning is lushly introspective) and drawbacks (it feels awkwardly forced for at least the second half). Overall, I ...more
Feb 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. A combination of history, medicine, nursing, women's rights, civil rights, love and life. For me this was a true "page turner" that I couldn't wait to get back to reading.
Tom N
Jul 27, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beginning on the eve of the Great Depression and encompassing many of the social changes that took place during the first half of the 20th century, Jackson Taylor's novel, THE BLUE ORCHARD is based on the life of his grandmother and the struggles she endured, growing up as the poor daughter of Irish immigrants in central Pennsylvania. After teaching herself to read and eventually gaining credentials as a nurse, Verna Krone finds herself working for a successful physician, whose political opponen ...more
Jul 23, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
when it comes to local history, particularly around where I live this was a pretty good book. sometimes it made me wonder if I knew where a certain place is, or if I know the family of a person that was mentioned (and very likely I do!). This book may also carry a fairly controversial subject matter, however, I do want to clarify that it neither supports nor is against the subject matter.
Feb 01, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 10, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jackson Taylor’s sometimes poetic, sometimes heavy-handed story of Verna Krone’s journey from extreme poverty to assisting a well-to-do African-American doctor in illegal abortions left me befuddled. On both and LibraryThing, people raved about Taylor’s handling of Krone’s story; he can turn a phrase, they enthused, and he balanced the history with the poetic.[return][return]Well, here I am again to go against the grain. The beginning of Taylor’s novel is the strongest; it falters in ...more
Feb 25, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, fiction
Interesting beginning. Boring end.

I was gonna go with 2 stars, because it's a well written story but, thinking back on it, I just can't let myself. I enjoyed the references to a town I know well, Harrisburg, unfortunately the setting and time of the novel were more remarkable then the characters.

In the 1930s, Verna Krone, leaves school early in order to get a job to help support her family. The man in the family she's working for molests and eventually rapes her, and every man after that in her
Jul 04, 2012 rated it liked it
The Blue Orchard is a good read, but not a great read. It is a story of a woman who grew up around the time of the Great Depression & the pre Civil Rights era. Verna Krone lived a very difficult life of poverty & abuse. This lead to a life of mistrust & poor decisions. One would empathize with her, if she weren't such an unlikeable character.

The book is a fusion of non-fiction/fiction. At times it is an interesting biography-like journal, but at other times it is excruciatingly detai
Jackie Sanderson
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 28, 2016 rated it liked it
While the issues of race, class, family, abortion, and political machinations in Harrisburg, PA, during the first half of the 20th century give the reader fascinating historical information, I found the fictionalized story of nurse Verna Krone and Dr. Charles Crampton to be somewhat stilted. I knew that author Jackson Taylor based his novel on the life of his grandmother, but I didn't know till I read the afterword afterward that most details, including the characters' names, were factual. That ...more
May 17, 2010 rated it it was ok
This is an interesting story about the author's grandmother, Verna. A poor farm girl from Pennsylvania growing up in the early 1900s. She works hard, supports her widowed mom and siblings, and earns her nursing license. She eventually becomes a nurse (a white one) to a black doctor who performs illegal (but medically sound for the time period) abortions. He wasn't using coat hangers or doing them in alleys, in other words. He's a good man; she's a good nurse. There's nothing untoward about their ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 15, 2012 rated it liked it
The Blue Orchard is a story based on the life of the author's own grandmother, Verna Krone. The story begins on the eve of the Great Depression, and Verna, then a fifteen year old girl from an impoverished white family, finds work as a maid to help support her family. Through her own determination she learns to read and then gets inspired to become a nurse. Luckily, one of her employers gives her the tuition to be payed back after Verna gets a job, and she graduates with no problem. Verna finds ...more
Nov 16, 2011 rated it really liked it
Verna is not an especially sympathetic lead, though some will likely attribute her character to her early history, which is, indeed, a hard one. Her motivation for getting involved in "illegal surgery" is more complex than it appears though most of the book. Also, she does gain some insights toward the end of the book. Dr. Crampton, likewise, follows unknown motives, with those he expresses feeling somewhat off. All of that said, Taylor invokes Harrisburg, PA from the Great Depression through th ...more
Apr 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was an incredibly fascinating read. All the moreso because of it's historical basis.

A young woman growing up extremely poor during the depression struggles to get somewhere in life and eventually makes enough money/friendships to get herself into a nursing school. Once out of nursing school, she eventually ends up as the assistant to an abortion doctor, who also happens to be black.

Such an interesting look at politics, abortion, class, and race issues in one woman's tale, and best yet, the

Verna Krone, practical nurse during the depression, should have installed a revolving door at her house for the men that came and went. She picks up all the losers, bears a son, Sam who she never cares for, and works for an African-American doctor who administers abortions although they are illegal at the time.

Not sure if this is a political story about the value of legalized abortion, or about promiscuous women and the trouble they find themselves in, or just a story with way too many c
Jenn Kavanaugh
Aug 12, 2016 rated it really liked it
Amazing book ! Based on the authors own grandmothers background. Interesting to see how they had to survive back then and how the children of the family had to earn a living for the family and how those demands took them to places in their lives that changed their lives forever.
Feb 17, 2011 rated it liked it
This was a mixed bag for me.
Feb 15, 2010 rated it liked it
Interesting story, but the author needed a better editor.
Mar 31, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Well worth the read, if only to experience a different age when abortion was illegal. It opened my eyes about the subject. And my mind.
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This book definitely nails the historical time era of the Great Depression through the Korean War. It's all there, the poverty, racial issues, divisions in families, a social system with double standard. From the time of being a young child, Verna had to fight to keep food on the table and a roof over the heads of her family. She gave up raising her son in order to financially take care of everyone. Based on the life of the author's grandmother, it shows the power of a woman to survive.
Jul 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A must read for anyone in the Harrisburg/Central PA area! I loved learning about some local history and recognizing many settings of this book. The story is also very engaging and deals with some difficult topics.
Sep 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Fascinating, troubling, well written novel about a woman growing up during the Depression. Hard to believe a man wrote this! Excellent author, I look forward to his next one.
Nov 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012-challenge
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 09, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
When my mom told me there was a new book out about the secret history of abortion in Harrisburg, my hometown, I thought, "At last! Someone has written me a novel!"

And I was mostly right. As local history, as racial history, and as women's history, this book is absolutely fascinating. But I wouldn't have gotten nearly as much out of it if I didn't care so deeply about Harrisburg. Also, it's a thinly fictionalized telling of true events, and as a novel, it doesn't carry its weight.

This book tells
Steve Lindahl
Apr 15, 2011 rated it really liked it
The Blue Orchard was a choice by my bookclub. It lead to one of the most interesting discussions we've had with the group. The book is set in Harrisburg, Pa, which is a place a few of our members are familiar with. It deals with race relations and abortion, topics about which people tend to have strong and emotional opinions.

The book spans most of the life of Verna Krone who is the grandmother of the author. Her stories have been documented by Jackson Taylor in his book, which he calls a novel b
Morninglight Mama
I'm so torn about how to feel after reading this book. There were aspects of both the story and the writing that I enjoyed, but there were also issues that frustrated or annoyed me, as well. As for the writing, there's no doubt in my mind that Jackson Taylor is a talented storyTELLER (like the leading quote on the cover by Wally Lamb states- the reason that I chose to read this book in the first place), but that doesn't always convey to writing. If he were telling me this story, based upon the r ...more
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“Pop used to say no one knows more tricks than a country midwife." - Verna Krone, The Blue Orchard” 1 likes
“I would like each of you to now think in terms of acquiring skill. Good skill helps you move more freely in the world. Skill is your confidence. Skill is your protector. Skill is your friend. And this above all else -- skill is a legitimate form of power." Nurse Pierce, The Blue Orchard” 1 likes
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