WNBA Reads: The Orchardist

This book review of The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin was written by Roz Reisner and originally published in the New York Bookwoman.

At the turn of the twentieth century, William Talmadge lives in the Pacific Northwest tending the orchard he has lived in since childhood. He cherishes his quiet, almost reclusive life in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains, where the apples and apricots he grows absorb his time and emotions. William still nurses the hurt from a childhood tragedy when his sister vanished without explanation. One day, two starving, frightened teenage girls appear at the edge of his orchard and steal his fruit. When William doesn’t retaliate, they return and thereby begin a remarkable tale.

The two girls, Jane and Della, are on the run from a sadistic brothel owner and Jane is pregnant. William takes them in and takes on the consequences of the violence that follows them. Jane dies, but her baby lives on in William’s care. William’s efforts to create a family in the face of unspeakable tragedy form the heartbreaking core of this beautifully written novel with a strong sense of time and place. Coplin’s characters are multi-dimensional and, like life, there are no easy endings to their journeys.

Readers and reviewers have called Coplin’s writing “mesmerizing” and “hypnotic”—for historical fiction fans The Orchardist is a powerful combination of good writing; unusual, memorable characters; and compelling plot.

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