The Orchardist: A Novel, by Amanda Coplin, is definitely a book that inhales and exhales nature and environment.
The historical information is compelling and well written. Washington State is described vividly, as far as apple orchards and farming is concerned. The production of apples, the selling of them, distributing them, etc., are presented in fine detail.
The environmental and geographical aspects are written with almost poetic visuals, and with environmental loveliness. But, poetic loveliness is not to be misconstrued in the aspect that the novel is a dark and disturbing one on many levels.
I found the writing style to be unique, and my eye caught the author’s lack of using quotation marks for dialogue. At times I had to reread sentences to make certain I was reading dialogue, and not another expansion of a sentence. With that said, I had no difficulty once I adjusted to the fact.
For a first novel, I was extremely impressed with the writing and illuminating word-imagery, especially concerning the orchard. The minute details did not detract from the story, in my opinion. I felt those details were a part of the whole spectrum of the issues that were dealt with. I thought Coplin’s use of planting, growing, tending, and nurturing crops as an analogy for the human spirit was brilliant. Yet, I also thought the novel could have been shortened by about 100 pages, as it stands, it is over 400 pages in length.
Nature versus nurture has always been a topic within some circles regarding bringing up children. The Orchardist gives the reader a clear example of that effort, on the part of Talmadge, the orchardist, and his attempt to raise two children, Jane and Della who have fled an abusive relationship, one lived in a brothel where their lives depended on giving sexual favors.
They appear in his orchard, two young girls, each one pregnant. Jane eventually gives birth to a daughter named Angeline, and Talmadge raises her like his own child. To say more regarding the girls would be to give away too much information. Fear, loss, love and separation, abuse and trauma, and so much more are encompassed within the pages of The Orchardist.
Their lives become entwined, and their orientation, or disorientation to the world is strongly pronounced within the pages. The book is quite existential, as far as individualization of the characters. The reader is taken through their lives and their personalities and their essences are vividly portrayed. Confusion, indifference, harboring emotions, etc., it is all apparent as Talmadge, Della and Angeline forge ahead with their lives, some times complacently, at other times on a destructive journey.
If you are looking for a fast-moving read, this book is not for you. The book is depressing in many areas, and not really one for those seeking a “happy and/or inspirational” reading experience. Amanda Coplin does an excellent job of emphasizing those subjects. For a first book, I thought it was brilliant in many areas. If I were to rate the book, I would give it a 3.5 on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest.