The Orchardist : A Novel By Amanda Coplin

The Orchardist takes place in the early twentieth century in Oregon and Washington. Talmadge, the orchardist of the title, leads a solitary existence since the early death of his mother and the disappearance years later of his beloved sister.

His life is ruled by the seasons and his solitude is broken only by his visits with his friend, Caroline Middey, and the annual appearance of a band of Nez Perce and horses that camp in the fields surrounding the orchard. They come to help Talmadge harvest his apricot and apple crops and to sell the horses they have captured in the wild. Talmadge goes to the market seasonally to buy additions for his orchard and to sell his crops.

One day two pregnant teenage sisters show up in his orchard, stealing apples on the sly. Talmage eventually is able to gain their trust and his life is forever after tied to theirs. They have run away from a terrifying existence and the threat of return sends one of them over the edge. The daughter of one of the girls whom he names Angelene, for one of his mother’s sisters, becomes Talmage’s child, his partner in the orchard, learning all the skills necessary for the orchards. Her mother Della abandons the child, but is never far from Talmadge’s mind.

Amanda Coplin has written a moving, beautifully written work that reminds me of Gilead by Marilynne Robinson or Tinkers by Paul Harding: slow-moving, with a reverence for nature.

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