What I read
It’s been eight years since Amanda Copin’s The Orchardist was published; I’ve had the title waiting in my Kindle queue for at least three. And I’m more than a little sheepish to admit 1) I let the book sit idle for so long and 2) if memory serves me, it was a Kindle deal. Because, really. This book is such a beauty that I would have gladly paid full price for the hardcover–and read it the day it was released.
I try not to read reviews of books I write about until my own is published. Something to do with a niggling little worry in the back of my mind that I will accidentally repeat what I read. So trust me when I say I’m not the first to call this novel poetic, lyrical, dazzling. (Even though it is.) Nor am I the first to think the storytelling is a little bit Annie Proulx. Or Charles Frazier. (Even though it is.)
Talmadge came to the Pacific Northwest when he was nine, along with his mother and sister, after his father died. Then Mother died and sister Elsbeth disappeared. Yet even as an orphaned young teen, Talmadge worked their land and tended to his orchards. Apples, mostly. Plums. Apricots, even. He’s watched over–mainly from a distance–by the village herbalist, Caroline Midday. And despite hardship and back-breaking work, Talmadge has made a good–if solitary–life for himself.
But then Della and her sister Jane enter his life, the story unfolds, and it’s as if the first fifty years of his life have led him to this moment. The girls, just barely teens, are pregnant and all but feral. Filthy. Starving. Distrustful. Talmadge leaves food on his porch; they stay hidden in the orchard. Until the babies come and then the girls–and their one surviving baby Angeline–need shelter and care. And, dare I say, love.
Their story is a hard one. Della and Jane have run away from a whore house where they were beaten and abused. Michaelson, the man who runs the business, sets out to find the girls, twice. Talmadge manages to outwit him once, and the second time Michaelson shows up, tragedy is close on his heels.
But somehow Talmadge and Caroline Midday and Cree, the Nez Perce man who oversees Talmadge’s harvest workers, build a happy life for themselves and the one around whom their world comes to revolve: Angelene. The surviving baby who brings a sweetness to their life they wouldn’t have imagined. Talmadge would do anything to protect Della, Angeline’s aunt-turned-mother … but we all know that our best intentions are often thwarted by those we love.
The end of the novel becomes a sweeping drama and I would have been satisfied without twists and turns. But because The Orchardist was lyrical and poetic and dazzling, I was content to stay with Talmadge and Angelene and Della to the end.
What I lived
The winter has been mild and wet, but I’ve been wrapped up in a tight cocoon of grandchildren and reading and stitching. I have no complaints!
I’ve been pleasantly surprised at my return to stitching. Especially since it’s been over thirty years since I’ve picked up a needle and thread. When my kids were young I stitched up a storm and even made my boys what I called Christopher Robin shortie overalls for church. But single parenting and finishing college and earning a living got in the way of all that–sadly, I think now.
And, oh my! have embroidery patterns evolved. Gone are the alphabets and bunnies and bonnet girls. HellO whimsy! I’ve also made several Ann Woods Mr. Socks . I struggle, wondering what in heavens name I will actually do with the stitching I complete–and I think that’s somehow related to retirement. Life is no longer commoditized. My accomplishments don’t have a value assigned by a contract or addendum. I stitch because I want to–not necessarily for the payback. Believe it or not, my mind is really taking some time to wrap itself around that idea.
I’ve also become a Book Fairy–which is just about as close to a super hero as I will ever get. Check out the Book Fairy website here and think about becoming one yourself. Readers, we could flood the world with books.
Think about the power in that for a minute …